Bus drivers upset about more than a year of stalled negotiations between their union and the company the city contracts with for service called on the city to pressure that company at the bargaining table during Tuesday’s Santa Clarita City Council meeting.
Local bus drivers have been on strike since Monday, as the result of stalled negotiations for their current contract. The strike has impacted services for residents, those with special needs and students in local school districts.
All signs from City Hall so far indicate the city has no interest in entering the fray with respect to the negotiations between the local drivers’ union and the Texas-based public transportation company the city contracts with for service.
MV Transportation has yet to respond to a request for comment from The Signal regarding its ongoing labor negotiations with the union other than to release a prewritten statement that says the company has been negotiating in good faith since October 2022. The latest request for comment was placed Thursday and no response was received.
City leaders have also declined to comment on the matter, which was not agendized for discussion at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Doug Campbell, a 25-year bus driver, said he hasn’t received a raise from MV Transportation in 25 months.
“We didn’t want to be in this position,” he said, adding he’d lived in Santa Clarita since he was 14 and he was standing next to two fellow drivers who were lifelong residents.
“MV is blaming you for the cheap contract that you gave them, and we ask you to put pressure on them to negotiate a fair raise or get them out of here,” he said. “Thank you for listening.”
Information released from City Hall in response to a request about the city’s current contract with MV Transportation indicates the city has little financial incentive to get involved in the dispute.
The city’s relationship with MV Transportation dates back 15 years, when the company was awarded a three-year contract with seven one-year renewals.
When those expired in 2018, the city put the contract out to bid again, and cited its previous relationship with MV as one of the reasons why it chose the company, even though its winning bid was about $3.5 million more than the cheapest one.
That contract was a four-year deal that increased in cost each fiscal year ending June 30, with two two-year renewal options.
“The city did exercise the first two-year option, which runs from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2024. For the 2022-23 contract year (Year 5), rates were increased 3% over the previous year,” Lujan wrote Thursday in an email, “and this past July the rates were increased another 3%.”
A statement from the city also indicated it wasn’t ready to engage in the discussion.
“The city of Santa Clarita is not party to the negotiations and will not engage as a third party,” read an email sent by Lujan to The Signal on Monday. “We have a contract with MV Transportation to provide transit services. That contract was negotiated and agreed to by MV Transportation.”
MV Transportation’s offer for a starting wage was $19.75 per hour, with an increase in pay of $0.25 after a year, a $0.10 increase after two years, another $0.10 increase after three years, a $0.15 increase after four years and a $0.75 increase after five or more years from a driver’s start date.
One driver who declined to speak on the record called the offer insulting, adding that he could make more starting in the fast-food industry. Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state’s minimum wage for fast-food workers will increase to $20 per hour, a more than 23% increase over the industry average of $16.21 per hour in 2022, according to Newsom’s office.
There have been service impacts as noted on the Santa Clarita Transit site.
“Santa Clarita Transit has secured a temporary emergency contract with Transit Systems to provide emergency service until labor relations are resolved,” according to its website. “Starting Oct. 11, 2023, the city will provide the following limited, fare-free service ….”
The city’s current two-year option with MV is expected to end June 30, 2024.