Sound Transit CEO Considers Outside Contractors
As the conflict continues with respect to Sound Transit contractors, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff is reportedly considering letting hiring private contractors to allotment of work in four Sound Transit Express routes between the Eastside and Seattle. The step is being opposed by labor leaders who called the move a threat to existing union jobs.
However, Rogoff had met with several leaders at Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 for mitigating the tensions. “We’re going to work through this with the labor partners. It was a cordial, honest exchange,” he said. “We have zero interest in not having labor work on our service,” Rogoff said. “That’s who we are.”
As per Rogoff, the winning contractor will provide space to park and maintain buses as Metro’s transit bases are full. But he said that there was no full confirmation that the winning bidder would do that.
Nicole Grant, executive secretary-treasurer at the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, said that she had met Rogoff on Thursday after being aware of the story of searching for private contractors. “He was like, ‘We just need more [capacity] than we can get, so we’re going to throw things open and try to get it,’” Grant said. “I said I was absolutely not fine with that … This is a hard ‘no’ from the labor movement.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine declined the request for comments on Sound Transit’s request for proposals but said that they were aware of the RFP and they were studying with the Transit to understand its implications.
Bids are to be done before April 12. Members on the 18-member transit board are yet to confirm whether they would sign on the contract or not. It is evident that the board members would feel huge pressure as they have been standing with transit- and construction-union members.
“My sense of this board, without talking with them, is the board would be collaborative with labor unions,” said Board Chairman John Marchione, who is Redmond’s mayor.
This is not the first privatization fight. It has been around the country for quite a time. It started when the ATU gives proposals for competitive contracts to Washington D.C. Following this, in Sarasota, Florida despite union opposition, county commissioners last week stopped an outsourcing plan aimed at cutting cost.
The project in question would be a 520 bus contractor must promise of its capability to park and repair at least 60 standard and articulated coaches. As per the bid, Sound Transit would continue to buy and own the buses. Rogoff said the agency is likely to increase its fleet soon.
It should be noted that the congestion is slowing down buses, so the need now is to increase the frequency of service. Rogoff said that they would need to put more buses on the road in order to provide the best customer services.
Rogoff said Friday that in talks with Metro, staff said the agency would have to drive empty buses between bases, and bill Sound Transit for those trips. This would make the fleet to fit in the bases. As per him, the issue of space is more important than decreasing Metro’s contract charge, of $163 per bus-operating hour in 2017-18.