Santa Clarita leaders Tuesday declined to state whether there are circumstances that would prompt them to become involved in negotiations between the union that represents its bus drivers and the company that’s contracted to manage them for the city.
A request for comment to City Hall on whether any contingencies or time frames exist that might prompt the city to act on making MV Transportation fulfill the full terms of its contract was met with a decline-to-comment response Tuesday.
Currently, the city is not paying the current option on its roughly $24 million annual contract for services from MV. The city entered into a contract with Transit Systems on Oct. 9, which “consists (of) all effort necessary to provide fixed route transit service using contractor-owned transit vehicles as directed by city and outlined in the attached work,” according to a copy of the contract obtained by The Signal.
That contract indicated the city was paying the Sun Valley-based bus service Transit Systems Unlimited approximately $18,500 for its services on Oct. 11, which included, as of Oct. 17, the following services: “limited routes for Nos. 5, 6 and 12 — no schedule, and the wait times are approximately 60 to 90 minutes; limited school-trippers, route Nos. 627, 623, 634, 626, 621 and 640; and limited Dial-A-Ride services, urgent medical appointments only. There is no commuter service.”
Santa Clarita Mayor Jason Gibbs said Tuesday he couldn’t comment on the situation as it involved active negotiations.
Santa Clarita bus drivers who were members of the union striking, Teamsters Local 572, called on city leaders last week at the City Council meeting to either pony up more money for the contract or put the contract out to bid for enough money to pay them what they’re asking.
MV Transportation has declined to make any public statement regarding the status of negotiations, only to say that it’s been working in good faith since October 2022 to come to terms with the union.
City officials agreed to a four-year contract in 2018 that was intended to be at least a 10-year deal with the renewal options included, according to notes in the city’s request for proposals.
The city confirmed earlier this week it was currently in the first year of a two-year option for its contract that it agreed to in July 2022 that would end in July 2024.
City officials referred questions about MV’s contractual obligations to the city’s contract. The publicly available documents do not specifically mention breach-of-service terms but allude to a request that labor actions be referred to a “Force Majeure,” according to the city’s website. “Please include force majeure provision relieving both parties from performance under the contract for circumstances beyond their reasonable control (acts of God, war, labor strikes or disputes, terrorism, etc.). Contractor should be excused from performance under the contract for circumstances beyond contractor’s control.”
The drivers have called the wage offers from MV Transportation insulting, while MV has stayed silent.
A source familiar with negotiations, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to talk on the record, indicated the most recent offer from MV included an average wage increase of about 7.2% upon the contract’s signing, with an 18% wage increase possible over the four-year life of the contract.
Union officials last week said they were committed to a protracted strike if necessary, but hoped for a resolution soon.
“We are continuing to strike MV Transit and will continue until we get a fair contract,” Linda Rompal, a 19-year driver, wrote in an email Tuesday. “We have no choice other than to continue because neither MV, nor city leaders, are willing to pay us a fair wage.”