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Detroit bus drivers get significant pay raise under tentative contract

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Detroit-City bus drivers will receive a raise for the first time in three years and will receive a starting wage increase to $ 15 an hour under a tentative agreement reached Wednesday.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan on Thursday discussed the four-year contract with the leadership of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26 and said paying the city’s bus drivers was something “that has always bothered me.”

The city’s bus drivers have been without a contract since December 2018 and received their last raise in July of this year.

The current base salary for bus drivers in Detroit is $ 12.99 an hour with a maximum hourly wage of $ 18.56. Under the proposal, the base would rise to $ 15 an hour and hit $ 21 an hour, officials said during a news conference Thursday.

Drivers would receive an annual salary increase of 2.5% over a four-year period starting July 1, 2021. The agreement will be submitted to Detroit City Council for consideration.

“I’ve always felt that the men and women responsible for driving buses should start on a living wage,” said Duggan. “Now we have a situation in which we pay our operators fairly.”

Duggan said the drivers trained with the Detroit Department of Transportation for years but then left to work at rival companies because of low wages.

ATU President Glenn Tolbert said wage levels had been a major issue for the union.

“It took a long time,” he said. “This has just been a highly competitive path. We are glad to have this chapter behind us. We are finally being taken somewhere where we think we should be with the men and women in the region.”

Tolbert told The News that the department had around 530 drivers prior to the pandemic. Now, with retirements and resignations, Detroit has approximately 430 drivers.

“People are retiring at an alarming rate. People are coming to get the license and move on elsewhere,” he said. “Nobody can live with a family on $ 12 or $ 13 an hour.”

Tolbert said the deal was a step in the right direction, but the union is still advocating paying dangers. It had previously been offered to drivers in the early months of the pandemic but was discontinued after three months, he said.

In the agreement, the administration proposed changes to DDOT’s attendance policy to reduce driver absenteeism. It also covers additional support offers for employees, officials said.

Mikel Oglesby, the city’s new executive director for transit, said the adjustments would get wage levels where they need to be. The tensions between management and union in the past are “out of the window”.

“We all work together and we all have the same goals,” he said.

The city has been improving COVID-19 security protocols over the past few weeks to protect bus operators and passengers as buses prepare to resume fare collection on March 15. The tariffs were suspended in March last year due to COVID-19.

DDOT’s new security measures include permanent barriers that require masks and social distancing on the coaches, as well as the use of hand sanitizer dispensers as a driver on board and prior to paying fares.

Detroit’s bus system is the state’s largest public transportation system, serving approximately 85,000 drivers a day prior to the pandemic. The service charges drivers $ 2 for a four-hour pass and $ 5 for a 24-hour pass.

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Dusty Kennedy