TAMPA — Union leaders representing HART bus and streetcar operators, mechanics and support personnel disclosed complaints with transit management Monday, ranging from a streetcar device containing asbestos to a lack of respect in union-management communications.
The two top officials with Amalgamated Transit Union 1593 told Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board members that employee morale is at an all time low.
“The constant disrespect ATU is exposed to, almost daily, is becoming a bigger and bigger issue,” ATU Local Vice President Colin Brown said. “It begins with the CEO and goes all the way down to the lowest management.”
The complaints involve arbitration cases involving employee discipline issues, a contention that incentive bonuses for performance were not paid, a concern over an employee safety harness used in maintenance on streetcars HART operates for the TECO Line Streetcar System, and a claim that asbestos sealed in a control device streetcar operators use has not been “cleaned up.”
The HART board responded that staff would investigate the allegations, but would not comment before the investigation is completed because of legalities involved with the labor agreement.
“I want a response on each point,” HART board member and county commissioner Mark Sharpe said. “I want to make sure ... we show 100 percent respect.”
HART management and the union have a history of strained relations, paralleling stressed budgets management and labor face in transit systems nationwide.
For example, the contract agreement HART and the union consummated in October increased entry level bus driver pay from $11.91 an hour to $12.21.
But HART typically loses 40 percent of its drivers in their first year because it cannot compete with other job offers, both in pay and stability of hours.
Streetcar maintenance has been a headache because certain assemblies in the cars are more than 50 years old, cannot be replaced and are expensive to retrofit.
Communications between management and labor over the years seemingly rises and falls within each successive management administration, including four different HART CEO’s in the past decade.
No deadline was announced for the staff report on union charges.