MARTA employees may get more hazard pay amid pandemic

MARTA may grant employees additional hazard pay for working during the coronavirus pandemic. (AJC FILE PHOTO)

MARTA may grant employees additional hazard pay for working during the coronavirus pandemic.

CEO Jeffrey Parker told the MARTA Board Thursday the agency is negotiating with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732 on additional pay for unionized employees, including bus and rail operators. Parker said the pay also would go to police officers, who are not represented by the union.

The parties apparently are far apart on what that hazard pay might look like. Parker said the ATU has asked that employees be paid time and a half for all hours worked during the pandemic. The pay would be retroactive.

Parker told the board the ATU’s proposal would cost $25.5 million for hours worked from March 1 through June 30 and about $6.4 million monthly. If the pandemic emergency dragged on for a year, the union’s hazard pay proposal would cost $76.3 million, Parker said.

By comparison, the pay raise MARTA approved in 2019 costs the agency about $13 million a year.

Parker dismissed the union proposal as unaffordable at a time when MARTA faces long-term financial challenges brought on in part by the pandemic. But he said negotiations continue, and he expects “a proposal forthcoming that will be more within the realm of possibilities.”

If a hazard pay deal is reached, it would be the latest financial boost for MARTA employees during the pandemic. Earlier this year, the agency granted front-line workers one-time $500 “hero” bonuses. It also granted workers up to 80 hours of additional paid sick time.

“I’m very conscious and focused on the incredible work that our front-line staff has been doing during this incredible time,” Parker said.

Britt Dunhams, president of the local union, said he’s confident an agreement can be worked out.

“It may not be what everybody wants," he said. "But I think we can come to a reasonable point.'

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