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WRTA workers say no; `Last, best offer' nixed, but no strike.

Byline: Scott J. Croteau

WORCESTER - Bus drivers and mechanics working for the Worcester Regional Transit Authority unanimously voted against the company's "last and best" contract offer yesterday morning.

Business Agent Christopher W. Bruce of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 22 said 80 of the 135 eligible members showed up and voted against the contract.

He called RTA General Manager John F. Carney after the vote.

Both sides said yesterday there will be no strike today.

The original contract between the union and RTA Transit Services expired June 30, but a contract extension was agreed upon. The extension expired yesterday.

Mr. Bruce and Mr. Carney also declined to disclose terms of the proposed one-year contract in the "last and best" offer.

Mr. Bruce said he will touch base with a federal mediator. The "last and best" contract offer was made by RTA Transit Services to the union on Sept. 10 during a meeting with the mediator.

"I don't want to jump to any conclusions or make any decisions," Mr. Carney said. He did not want to put a timeframe on what he would do next.

In a letter from RTA Administrator Stephen F. O'Neil to City Manager Michael V. O'Brien dated Sept. 17, he said negotiations between the company and the union began May 5.

There have been 15 negotiation sessions, including three in which the federal mediator was involved, according to the letter.

Mr. O'Neil had hoped the contract would be accepted by the union.

"While I cannot comment on the details of the final offer at this time, the offer addresses the needs of the company, the needs of the employees, and the concern of the member communities regarding fringe benefits," he wrote. "The bus company is hoping that the employees, in these troubled economic times, will review the final offer and vote to accept it on October 3, 2010."

He further said that an executive session of the advisory board will be held to discuss labor strategies.

The letter also says the company spoke with union officials regarding interruption of service and the company understands "There will be advance notice to the public of any strike."

After a one-day "sick out" in August, in which 31 drivers called in sick and forced routes to be canceled or delayed, a federal judge ordered union workers to return to the job.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 4, 2010
Words:390
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