For Immediate Release
August 30, 2018
Rich Farr, Executive Director
AS UNION TALKS STALL, CAT FACES HIGH ABSENTEEISM AND FINANCIAL INSTABILITY
(Harrisburg) – Capital Area Transit (CAT), providing public transit service in Harrisburg, Dauphin and Cumberland Counties, has been in labor negotiations since last May without progress toward reducing a structural budget deficit that places the future of the Authority in jeopardy.
Today the Amalgamated Transit Union, Division 1436, issued public statements concerning “forced overtime” and “excessive discipline” which might “threaten the safety of drivers and riders”.
While this is an overstatement, CAT is in fact short of drivers and the current fiscal budget calls for the hiring of 15 additional drivers in the coming year. The Authority administers discipline in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement.
“We are trying to work with the ATU to find contractual solutions that support Authority sustainability, or CAT faces an uncertain future as an organization.” Richard H. Farr, Executive Director, said today. “The annual unfunded deficit of $1 million – 1.2 million in costs, mostly related to work rules in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is unsustainable and must be resolved.” He stated.
“However, more often than not we are experiencing a 20% absenteeism rate on Mondays and Fridays,” Farr added, “and a lower percentage, but higher than expected rate, during the week.”
This absenteeism drastically impacts public transit operations, resulting in poor service, lost ridership and constant customer complaints about driver performance.
PennDOT regulates the number of hours an operator can safely perform transit work at 16 hours. CAT limits operator work at 14 hours, below state standards.
“We know these are challenging conversations, but the Authority is committed to working towards a solution that provides for the continuation of service.” Farr said.
Capital Area Transit was incorporated in 1973 when Cumberland County and Dauphin County Commissioners and the City of Harrisburg organized CAT to provide mass transit Fixed-Route and Paratransit shared-ride services, which today conveniently and safely transport about 2 million riders a year in the thousand square mile capital region.