MARTA bus driver ‘sickout’ appears to be over

The labor unrest that disrupted MARTA bus routes for more than a week appears to be over.

The number of bus drivers calling in sick has returned to normal the past two days after peaking at more than 100 a day at times over the previous week.

The sickout appears to have been a way for some workers to express their displeasure at a tentative labor agreement. But 88 percent of union voters approved that agreement last weekend. And the MARTA board of directors could approve it as soon as next week.

Among other things, the agreement calls for 3 percent raises in each of the next three years, plus longevity premiums and other pay enhancements.

The sickout began Jan. 28, when 130 bus drivers called in sick. It diminished over the course of last week, but it picked up steam again during Super Bowl weekend. MARTA says 112 drivers called in sick Sunday, and 119 drivers called in Monday.

But the number fell to 28 Tuesday and just 17 by early Wednesday. The agency says about 20 bus drivers call in sick on a typical day.

Those calling in sick were a fraction of MARTA’s 1,199 full-time and 49 part-time bus operators. But the sickout disrupted hundreds of bus trips.

MARTA went to court last week to stop the labor unrest. That yielded a consent order between the agency and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732. The union had disavowed the sickout, but it agreed to encourage employees to get back to work.

MARTA has said it intends to discipline employees who called in sick without good cause.