Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Posted: 6:29 p.m. Thursday, March 8, 2012
About 120 Palm Beach County bus drivers who provide door-to-door service for the area's elderly and disabled residents could get additional money, under an appellate ruling that a company that employs them violated federal labor laws when it reduced workers' hours without negotiating with a transit union.
Officials of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1577 said the ruling, issued by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on March 2, could result in back pay of more than $2 million for paratransit drivers who work for Palm Beach Metro Transportation. The company is one of several contracted by Palm Tran to provide paratransit service through Palm Tran Connection.
"This is a victory not only for workers, but for the people who rely on experienced, professional Metro drivers to get to and from the doctor, church, and other daily tasks," said ATU Local 1577 President and Business Agent Dwight Mattingly.
The ruling confirms a July 2011 decision by the National Labor Relations Board, which represented the ATU workers and found that Palm Beach Metro Transportation engaged in unfair labor practices when it reduced workers' schedules without noticing or negotiating with the ATU.
Officials at Palm Beach Metro Transportation could not be reached for comment, but attorney John Camillo, who represents the company, said "at this point in time, we are working with the National Labor Relations Board to resolve this issue and have been now for a while."
Issues between the ATU and Palm Beach Metro Transportation date back to 2008, according to court records.
The company has provided Palm Tran Connection services in Palm Beach County for about seven years, according to Chuck Cohen, Palm Tran's executive director. Palm Tran Metro Transportation currently provides about 45 percent of Connection services and the company recently submitted a proposal to renew the contract with Palm Tran for next year, Cohen added.