Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Striplin told the public for weeks that officials were in constant communication with MV Transportation over the company’s contract with Santa Clarita Transit’s drivers, who ended a nearly 60-day strike last week by agreeing to terms.
With the release of the agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting, residents get the first glimpse of what the city plans to pony up to get its drivers back behind the wheel.
The Santa Clarita City Council is expected to approve increasing: the contract amount by $1.22 million for 2023-24 fiscal year; MV’s billing rates to the city for certain “on-demand” services like Dial-A-Ride to the tune of about $106,000 per month; and an automatic COLA raise in the contract by 1% from 3% to 4%.
It’s possible that the final impact to the city’s budget might not be completely known until the fiscal year’s end. The “flexibility” city officials were trying to create in MV’s contract also allows the company to subcontract up to 20% of the Dial-A-Ride and Americans with Disabilities Act trips to a city-approved contractor. The city also put a clause in the contract that amends it so the two-year optional contract extensions beginning in 2027-28, the end of the currently agreed to options, require mutual agreement.
In July 2022, the city picked up a two-year option for MV Transportation’s services, which was part of a 10-year deal negotiated in 2018 with six years’ worth of options.
The labor issue for Santa Clarita Transit, which contracts with Teamster Local Union 572 out of Carson, began that October when the drivers’ contract expired and the company said there was no money for raises.
Union officials said the city was benefitting from negotiating a pre-pandemic contract that wasn’t paying MV, the nation’s largest passenger-service company, enough money to give a raise to its drivers.
“When the contract was awarded to MV, the proposed wage scale for staff was within industry and regional standards. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy experienced significant inflation, which caused increases across all sectors, including labor,” according to a City Council agenda report. “By 2023, inflation had outpaced the wage scale used to develop MV’s pricing model, and the billing rates could not support the wage demands from the bus drivers’ union, Teamsters Local 572.”
Lourdes Garcia, secretary-treasurer for Union Local 572, did not respond to a request for comment Monday on the details of the offer from MV to drivers.
While she said last week the new contract did not include a pension plan for drivers as requested, there were significant salary increases.
The initial contract amounts, per the council’s agenda, indicate the city could spend an additional $2 million for the fiscal year, based on the reallocated $1.2 million and approximately $105,000 per month in service costs.
During the strike, the city also saved some money by using Transit Systems, a San Fernando Valley-based charter company, to cobble together local routes for students and essential commuting. MV did not get paid during the strike.
Transit Systems’ services cost approximately $20,000 per day, not including commuter services, which were cancelled during the strike. The service also included significantly fewer routes. The previously negotiated contract with MV included a budget of about $24 million for the fiscal year, which comes out to an average of about $65,750 per day.