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Greater Dayton RTA driver union days away from another strike

Greater Dayton RTA drivers and mechanics have voted to send a strike notice to the regional transit authority in coming days, Dayton Daily News and WHIO have learned.

RTA and the Amalgamated Transit Union 1385 have until Dec. 31 to settle the dispute before a strike could begin, according to the contract signed by the two parties after a four-day strike earlier this year in January.

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The union must send RTA a strike notice by Dec. 21 if they wish to strike, according to the contract. The union is expected to meet again in coming days to decide if drivers and mechanics will walk off.

“When we settled the strike the company was unable to commit for what the insurance would be for years two and three,” said Glenn Salyer, the union president. “They want us to either give back raises or pay more for insurance, and that’s not going to happen.”

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Mark Donaghy, RTA's chief executive, said RTA has offered to meet with the union and the mediator. 

"I am disappointed that instead of negotiating with RTA or through the state appointed mediator that Local 1385 leadership has resorted to using the media and threatening the public with another strike to further his interests," said Mark Donaghy, RTA's chief executive, in a prepared statement. 

"RTA has offered the union a proposal that allows their members to reduce their premium share for health insurance by one-third. The union's current proposal would increase costs to RTA by $1.4 million per year," Donaghy said. "Given our financial situation, having to address a $3 million deficit for 2018 which will cause us to consider raising fares and to reduce service, the union proposal is just not acceptable as it would require further cuts in service to accommodate."

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The benefits plan approved after the strike had employees pay 15 percent of the total cost of the health care plan defined by premium charges for years 2015 and 2016.

In 2017, the contract called for the employees to pay for a weekly rate based on the type of the medical coverage they choose. A single employee would pay $27.53 weekly for medical, prescription and dental coverage, or $88.21 per week for a family. RTA agreed to contribute to a Health Savings Account one-time lump sums ranging from $1,100 for a single employee up to $2,500 for family plan coverage.

The contract language allows either party to reopen only the health care portion of the agreement to re-negotiate the healthcare portion of the deal. The union reopened the contract in March.

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“What they did, essentially, is punt on the issue for a little while, get people back to work and deal with it later if they have to,” said Doug Anspach, a labor attorney with Taft Stettinius & Hollister, in a Dayton Daily News analysis of the contract published in January.

That month, RTA drivers and mechanics walked off the job after failing to reach a contract, kicking off a four-day strike that stranded thousands of riders and drew the ire of local business people and schools.

“Another RTA strike would be unacceptable for our community,” said state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg. “We cannot put hard working Daytonians in jeopardy of not being able to get to work again. I urge both management and labor to come together and reach agreement to avoid another strike.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

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