After conceding to pay a part of health insurance costs, unionized transit workers of Metro Bus and Rail are looking at potentially receiving their first pay raise in eight years.
The more than 1,000 members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1342 on Tuesday ratified an 11-year agreement with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority that, to start, includes an 11 percent pay raise that is retroactive to April 1.
Subsequent raises would see their wages increase by a total 17.25 percent through 2020.
ATU President Jeffrey Richardson, who has been union president since January, said Wednesday the agreement between ATU and NFTA was ratified by a vote of 498 to 297.
The tentative contract still requires approval by the NFTA Board of Commissioners, which is expected to vote on the agreement at its next scheduled meeting on July 27.
Kimberley Minkel, the NFTA's executive director, issued a statement following the ratification vote.
“I want to acknowledge the incredible effort that went into the negotiations and thank in particular Jeff Richardson, the new ATU president, who worked very hard for his members. Both sides lobbied for a deal that recognizes the tremendous job our employees do every day and is also fair to the public we serve,” Minkel said.
Under the tentative agreement, workers also would receive 2 percent raises in both 2018 and 2019, and an additional 2.25 percent wage increase in 2020.
The main concession made by the union was an agreement for workers to begin covering a portion of their health insurance costs.
"We never paid into our health insurance before," said Richardson. "Now we have to pay into our health insurance, but we don't have to start paying until Jan. 1, 2019, which is huge. We pay 10 percent with a cap. So, for a family plan, it would never go up above $230 a month."
Richardson estimated that if members were currently paying for a portion of their insurance, it would cost workers about $39 a week for a family plan and $14.71 for a plan covering a single individual.
Retired workers, however, will continue to receive free health insurance coverage.
"Even after we start paying, when you retire, it goes back to zero, or no contribution towards your health insurance," Richardson said.
ATU Local 1342 members include Metro Bus and Rail operators, along with Paratransit and MetroLink drivers, NFTA mechanics and clerical workers in the payroll department.