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Detroit bus drivers finally get a new contract, pay raise

Oct 5, 2015

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

For the first time in five years, Detroit and its bus drivers have agreed to a new labor contract.

The four-year deal includes an immediate 4% base wage hike, gradually growing to 13.5% over the course of the contract.

It also introduces “fare box sharing.” If the Detroit Department of Transportation gains riders and grows revenues, 30% of that increase will go to drivers, up to a certain amount.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan pushed for that idea. He said the city had to find a way to “treat drivers better,” while also staying within the court-mandated budgets of Detroit’s post-bankruptcy plan.

“If we get more riders, if we collect more revenue, let’s have an agreement where the drivers share in the upside,” said Duggan, adding that also gives drivers’ incentive to provide better service.

Transit union leaders say it’s a good first step toward parity with surrounding transit systems. DDOT drivers took a pay cut in their last negotiated contract, which pre-dates Detroit’s bankruptcy.

“This is not the best deal for bus drivers … [but] this is a step,” said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26 President Fred Westbrook.

“We think it’s the best deal we can get from the city of Detroit in the circumstances that they’re under.”

DDOT drivers ratified the contract last week. It still needs approval from the Detroit City Council, and Detroit’s state-appointed financial review commission.