Unionized transit workers of Metro Bus and Rail have voted "no confidence" in Kimberley A. Minkel, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, after nearly eight years of stalled contract talks.
Jeff Richardson said 97 percent of the authority's work force voted "no confidence in the ability of Executive Director Kim Minkel to responsibly lead the agency."
NFTA officials dispute the mathematical accuracy of the claim.
"The no confidence vote makes clear that this is not a personality dispute," said Richardson, who was elected Tuesday to succeed Vincent Crehan as the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1342. "The issue here is simple – will the NFTA board put the riding public first by paying transit workers a wage that attracts and retains high-quality bus operators and mechanics, or will they choose to keep cutting routes and leaving seniors out in the cold just to bolster their union-busting credentials?"
Richardson also said "rolling bus cuts in the city" are directly linked to the agency's inability to hire an adequate number of bus operators at the $12.95 starting rate.
"Governor Cuomo appointed this NFTA board, and they in turn hired Ms. Minkel to run the day-to-day operation here. She has run it into the ground, harming not only our members, but our riders and community institutions that rely on them," he continued. "When this many people have zero trust in their boss, it's only a matter of time until that distrust trickles up to the board and the governor."
Minkel disputed much of Richardson's claims, pointing out the authority has not cut bus routes. She also said the NFTA has for more than a year offered starting rates of more than $15 per hour, which she said the union has not even discussed because of its unwillingness to come to the bargaining table.
"When they are willing to come to the table, we will be more than willing to negotiate," she said. "We agree they deserve better, but I can't negotiate when I'm the only person in the room."
Sister Denise Roche, NFTA chairwoman, issued her own statement pointing out that the authority has reached 18 successful collective bargaining agreements over the past several years with the NFTA’s 13 bargaining units.
"We have absolute and unwavering confidence in Kim’s ability to perform her duties," Roche said. "As such, we are confident that she will continue to provide strong leadership and work diligently and collaboratively with all employees and customers alike."