DETROIT (WJBK) - For the first time in five years the city of Detroit and the union that represents its more than 400 ddot bus drivers have struck a deal. A new bargaining agreement means more money for employees of the largest public transit agency in the state.
Starting bus drivers did make $11.38 an hour. They will now earn $12.06, but that is still less than SMART bus drivers and those working for private companies.
"It's not the best deal as far as we're concerned for bus drivers; we would never be satisfied until we are parity [sic] with SMART and any other transportation system in the metro area," says Frank Westbrook, ATU Local 26 president. "But Dan Dirks and Mayor Duggan said this is a step and that's the way and the route we are headed."
When the economy tanked a few years ago, DDOT saw interrupted service and an 8 percent pay cut. But now that the city is on the mend, so is its vital mode of transportation. It recently hired 100 drivers and funding helped the city purchase 80 new buses, some that are longer and bend around corners. They also added security measures on those buses. Ridership is expected to go up as a result - a win-win for drivers and those who rely on them to get around.
"We have to treat our drivers fairly. They are responsible for the lives of 600,000 passengers every single week, and so, we aren't all the way to parity at this time but I'm hoping in the coming years we'll keep moving in the right direction, and I think the ratification vote on Friday was a vote of confidence," said Mayor Duggan.
"Drivers are the heart and soul of any transit system, and I happen to think we have some of the very best in the country right here," says Dan Dirks, the director of the Detroit Department of Transportation.
The new contract also includes a built-in raise if ridership does go up and revenue goes up. The contract, though, still needs to be approved by the Detroit City Council and the financial review committee.