Hampton Roads Transit and its unionized workers have agreed to a new contract that increases base pay for bus operators and offers incentive pay for attendance, the company announced Thursday.
The three-year contract reached with the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1177 representing some 600 workers, took effect July 1. Company officials hope the changes improve HRT ability to recruit and retain employees, as the company seeks to hire more workers to meet future demand.
“This contract represents a true partnership which will enable HRT and its employees to improve public transit in the 757,” William Harrell, President and CEO of HRT said in a company release.
The agreement cements an hourly pay raise for bus operators by 5.5%, plus an additional $2.25 per hour while on the clock as an attendance incentive. Combined, it increases base pay from $15.18 an hour to $18.26. It also boosts base pay for bus mechanics while working from $18.87 to $22.16 an hour. Light rail operators also are eligible, raising their starting work pay to $19.41.
Getting the attendance incentive is a plus for union workers who ratified the contract early July, said Amanda Malone, president of Local 1177.
“It wasn’t easy. HRT has an attendance problem. We have a deficit in bus operators, so it was an incentive to keep employees coming to work,” says Malone. “What we did tell them in negotiation, is a lot of this has to do with mismanagement and the hiring process is a little strict.”
HRT spokesman Gene Cavasos said keeping enough bus operators in the field has been particularly challenging during the pandemic. The Virginia Department of Transpiration sets some of the criteria for bus operators, but really, they need obtain their commercial operator’s licenses, he added.
Hampton Roads Transit employs 401 bus operators, but the company is down at least 81 operators it needs to cover service throughout the region, Cavasos said. When it does hire, it’s a 9- to-12-week paid training period and most people who apply do not have their commercial drivers’ license.
“It’s intense, but we want good operators,” he said.
The contract also provides for additional bereavement time, an extra two days, on top of already agreed three days, for employees who need to travel more than 300 miles to funerals for immediate family members. The contract also formalized Juneteenth commemoration as an official paid holiday, the release said.
In general, bus operators receive pay increases every 10 months until they reach the top step after five years. Mechanics receive hourly pay increases every six months until they reach top pay after two years. Other contract benefits include increases with bus uniform allowance, rising from $350 to $400 per year, with an $25 year increase for each of the next two years.
Hampton Roads Transit is hosting a job fair Friday at its Norfolk facility, 509 E. 18th St.
Lisa Vernon Sparks, 757-247-4832, email@example.com