Dozens of union members picketed in front of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) headquarters in Downtown Buffalo Thursday afternoon. They've been working since 2009 without a new contract and want some type of agreement soon.
Members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1342 make up the majority of NFTA employees. Vincent Crehan, the President of Local 1342, says 1100 of the 1500 total employees are in the union.
"Management doesn't talk to us much anymore," he said today. "They haven't been to the negotiation table. The drivers, mechanics and clerical workers are frustrated."
But NFTA's executive director Kim Minkel is putting the blame on the union.
"They have to come back to the table to negotiate and we're ready 24-7," she said. "Anytime they're ready to come back and negotiate, we're ready to meet them."
She also explained that the NFTA doesn't have similar issues negotiating contracts with its other employees.
"We have 12 other unions here at the NFTA. Since the time that the ATU has been out, we have settled 16 other contracts," she said.
The NFTA is looking for employees to pay more towards their healthcare. Members of the union won't agree to that until they see higher wages.
"If they want you to pay for your health insurance, say $50 a week. You want at least a $50 a week raise to cover what you're paying for your health insurance," Local 1342 executive board member Kevin Kline said.
A shortage in bus drivers recently forced the NFTA to drop certain routes. NFTA blamed the shortange on an increase in retiring workers, but union members point to the starting wage for new drivers.
"When they go out on their own, they're driving the bus for $12.95 an hour," Kline said. "They can make more working anyplace else than trying to start [at the NFTA]."
"We want to provide a service to the public. Good quality service. We want to provide the service uninterrupted by any scheduled cuts," Crehan said. "And by doing that we need to get a fair contract and fair wages."
There are no scheduled talks on the horizon for the union and the NFTA.