The Ottumwa Courier

Education

September 16, 2013

Driving a hard bargain

(Continued)

To continue that one example, drivers in other districts average five days of paid bereavement leave; Southern Iowa Transit has offered one paid day, two unpaid days. The union asked for three paid days. There are other issues, too, but none are insurmountable, said Jon Thomas, a business agent and organizer for Teamsters Local 238.

"We believe that the union, the Teamsters, have bargained in good faith and tried to come to a reasonable resolution, and we have not been able to reach that resolution," he said. "We feel that if the company sits down and bargains in good faith on Wednesday, we won't have any disruption in services."

When asked what he'd like to tell the public, Southern Iowa Transit co-owner Jerry Kjer said he and his business partner are ready to meet with driver representatives.

"Do know that we want to see this resolved, and we remain optimistic and positive," said Kjer. "We are of the hope that we will get a resolution; my partner and I have invested a lot of time in negotiations and have made what we feel is our best offer, and they rejected that. But, as I said, we're still optimistic we can reach an agreement without [negotiations] having any adverse impact on day-to-day operations."

As far as resources go, Kjer said, there's only so much Southern Iowa Transit has available to use for operating the service. Their contract with the district is fixed for the next two years. They can't call their customer and ask for more money.

Yet money isn't necessarily the obstacle some people think it is. At least, not the overall payroll amount.

"Where we are now on negotiations is not necessarily money," said Thomas. "It's the attendance policy, leave of absence and how the money is distributed."

By how the money is distributed, he said, he means that the "pool" of money in the payroll is not the issue.

"It's how it's distributed to the 28 drivers."

The two parties are scheduled to meet Wednesday.

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark

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