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MTA CONTRACT DEADLINE LOOMS BUS, RAIL WALKOUT COULD HIT TUESDAY.

Byline: Erik Nelson Staff Writer

Chances of a bus and rail strike Tuesday - the first day of school for thousands of Los Angeles public school students - remained uncertain Sunday as MTA and transit union negotiators wrestled over creation of split-shift, 10-hour days for bus drivers.

``These scheduling issues have been on the table for months,'' said Metropolitan Transit Authority spokesman Barry Liden. The MTA proposed the schedules, but unions, he said, were still mulling them over two days before the unions' contract is to expire.

Goldy Norton, a spokesman for the United Transportation Union which represents nearly 4,300 bus and rail operators, said Sunday he would not comment on the negotiations. But other union representatives said the MTA is causing the delay.

``In all the years I've done this, I've never seen the MTA . . . move this slowly,'' said Ray Huffer, division chairman of the Transportation Communications International Union.

At 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, the MTA's collective bargaining agreement will expire for nearly 4,300 bus and rail operators of the United Transportation Union, nearly 2,000 mechanics of the Amalgamated Transit Union and about 680 communications workers of Huffer's union.

A strike could affect nearly 1.5 million people, including back-to- school children.

Union leaders said they would give a 72-hour notice if they planned to strike and still had not done so Sunday afternoon, leaving MTA officials hopeful a first-day-of-school strike would not occur.

``I think it's going to paralyze our transportation system and leave a lot of kids and their parents unable to get to school,'' Liden said.

Huffer said the unions were keenly aware of the start of school and other activities that a transit strike would disrupt.

``We're not here to injure the riding public or the businesses that are affected,'' he said. ``We're here to protect what the workers have and not change their lifestyle dramatically.''

Which is what the MTA's proposed 10-hour workday proposal would do, Huffer said.

Liden said it would help save the public money that the transit agency pays to many workers who have come to depend on overtime hours.

``It's fairly safe to say that overtime is out of control,'' said Liden. For its part, the MTA has over three years reduced the cost of operating buses from $108 an hour to $98 an hour, he said.

Another cost-cutting scheduling issue is over the MTA's proposal to reduce the amount of time bus drivers are automatically paid after they park their buses at the end of the day from five minutes to three minutes. Although it is only a difference of two minutes, Liden said, the savings add up when multiplied by 200 bus lines.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 4, 2000
Words:447
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