RTA union calls off New Year’s Day bus strike

Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority buses will keep running through the new year after the union representing RTA drivers and mechanics pushed back a threatened strike, according to the incoming union president.

Gerald Duncan, who will take over as president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1385 after an election last weekend, said they will not strike as long as RTA management is willing to negotiate over differences in how much their roughly 400 employees pay for health insurance.

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“We have delayed the strike until … we absolutely can’t negotiate any further,” Duncan said in an interview Wednesday. “We don’t want to put people out in this cold weather.”

Duncan said talks between the union and RTA are scheduled to resume next week.

RTA chief executive Mark Donaghy said in a statement Wednesday he is “extremely pleased” with the union’s decision to delay any work stoppage while they negotiate a contract.

“RTA’s customers as well as our management team appreciate the concern demonstrated by this decision from the union leadership, especially during the extreme weather we are experiencing,” Donaghy said. “I look forward to returning to the table next week and working to find a solution to the issue.”

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Duncan said the union has filed with the State Employment Relations Board to push back the strike date 10 days, as allowed by law. He said they will continue postponing the strike, 10 days at a time, as long as talks continue.

“As long as they continue to negotiate with us, we look forward to negotiating more with them,” Duncan said.

Local government leaders had urged the sides to continue talks and avoid the RTA’s second strike within a year. An expert in labor laws and negotiations had said two strikes within a year would be very rare.

Duncan will replace outgoing union president Glenn Salyer, who oversaw a four-day strike in January 2016 that impacted transportation for tens of thousands of riders, making it harder for them to buy groceries, or get to doctors’s appointments, work or school.

Some had become concerned that a bitter relationship between Salyer and RTA chief executive Mark Donaghy was souring contract negotiations.

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Duncan is a mechanic who has worked for the RTA 27 years. He has been the union’s financial secretary for six years.

When asked why Salyer was voted out, Duncan said, “The membership just felt they needed a change, and that’s all there was to it. The other president did a fine job for us.”

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