Mayor Michael Coleman said on Tuesday evening that he asked union members to reconsider their decision to reject a tentative agreement that prolonged the COTA strike.
Coleman said that he asked union members to vote on the package as soon as possible and also asked COTA officials to reaffirm its support.
The Transportation Workers Union Local #208 voted 270-238 Monday night to reject a proposal from COTA, which included a 7-percent wage increase over a three-year contract period.
The agreement also included a 2-percent reduction in the amount COTA has been contributing to employees’ Public Employees Retirement System accounts, according to COTA.
According to a COTA release, because of the strike, there was no fixed-route bus service on Monday or Tuesday. Paratransit services, including Mainstream, Will Call and non-ASA trips, were not affected by the strike.
Union President Andrew Jordan said that the battle about wages and pension has turned into one of safety and health benefits.
“We need assurance that we can trust the authority on the contract language that we have,” Jordan said.
He said that safety and health benefits are sticking points.
“There are situations where individuals have done things in public, in transportation, have done things,” Jordan said. “They have stolen property from the individuals, from the drivers, they have assaulted the bus drivers, they have spat upon bus drivers, and when we go to defend ourselves, to retrieve our property, the authority takes the position that we are fired and that we should not have those protections.”
COTA President Curtis Stitt said that prosecuting misconduct is a priority for COTA.
“We look at those people as criminals, and anybody who would dare say we don’t have safety as a paramount concern at COTA is misleading you.”
The decision left nearly 25,000 public transit customers without transportation.
Those who previously relied on COTA for transportation have reached out to other central Ohio resources such as the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s Ride Solutions program.
Ride Solutions offers carpool matches, van-pool services and a bicycle match for those wanting to ride in numbers.
“We will e-mail out a match list, and she can contact those individuals who are willing to share the ride to work, to see if she can ride with them while COTA’s on strike,” said Lynn Robinson, Ride Solutions program manager.
Robinson said that her phones were ringing off the hook.
“Our calls have doubled, our online applications have doubled, also, and people are looking for different options that they might not have known about,” Robinson said.
Taxi driver Melku Belay said that he had not had a big increase in business because many people cannot afford to take cabs.
Belay said that he was faced with a crying customer.
“What she got is two dollars,” Belay said. “I told her, ‘I take you. Don’t worry about it.’”
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