MARTA to seek court action to end bus driver ‘sick-out’

5:20 p.m. update: MARTA says it will go to court to stop a "sick-out" by bus drivers that has disrupted bus service as the agency prepares to host the Super Bowl.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, the agency said it has notified the leaders of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732 that MARTA will file a court injunction to end the work slow-down. It says it has “demanded that ATU leadership take immediate action disavowing the sick-out and demand that union members return to work.”

MARTA and the union reached a tentative agreement Saturday night that would give employee an across-the-board pay increase of 3 percent a year for three years. It also would pay an additional 25 cents an hour in longevity premiums to all employees with at least 20 years of service. And it would implement an immediate “parity pay adjustment” of 50 cents an hour for all bus and rail operators and $1 an hour for mechanics and other skilled technicians.

The tentative agreement also provides for a $1,000 retro/ratification payment for full-time employees and $500 for part-time employees if the agreement is ratified by March 1.

ATU leaders have not responded to numerous requests for comment.

At a press conference Monday morning, MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker said he hoped regular bus service would be restored by the afternoon. However, the agency said it was still experiencing delays late Monday.

On Monday afternoon, Parker issued a statement citing a Jan. 25 letter to the union “notifying them that any slow down or organized work stoppage was a violation of state law and MARTA would pursue all disciplinary and legal remedies available.

“The action today is unacceptable and we will use every tool available to make sure our riders are not harmed by this work stoppage,” Parker said.

11 a.m. update: A labor walkout disrupted dozens of MARTA bus routes Monday morning as the agency prepares to host the Super Bowl this week.

MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker said about 80 bus drivers called in sick Monday. The walkout apparently was meant to express displeasure with negotiations for a new union contract. That disrupted morning service.

It’s unclear whether the labor “sick-out” will continue beyond Monday, though Parker said he hoped regular service would be restored by the afternoon.

MARTA rail service was not affected.

MARTA has been negotiating a new contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732. At a press conference Monday, Parker said negotiators approved a new agreement Saturday. He declined to discuss the details of the agreement, which must be approved by the ATU and by the MARTA Board of Directors.

Parker said he has been assured by the union that it will encourage employees to return to work.

A representative of the ATU did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Original post: MARTA faces a threat that some of its transit operators will walk off the job during Super Bowl weekend – potentially disrupting service as tens of thousands of visitors try to get to the game.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732, which represents MARTA workers, has urged its members not to follow the advice of “rogue individuals,” who have circulated a letter calling on employees to walk off the job next Saturday through Monday.

In a Dec. 27 letter to union members, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the ATU disavowed the call to walk off the job and urged members to “continue to provide the quality service that has earned us the respect of not only the community and MARTA management but every person who encounters a MARTA employee.”

The union is negotiating a new MARTA contract, and at times has express frustration with the progress of those talks. In the letter, the ATU called on members to “allow the process to continue to work while we demand a reasonable contract.”

“We are asking all ATU members and employees to be positive and trust the leadership that you have elected to do the job,” the letter said. “Any action which is sanctioned by [the] ATU office will come from your ATU officers.”

The union’s letter said it’s not responsible or in agreement with “a document asking our members not to report to work” Feb. 2-4. A walk-off during the Super Bowl could disrupt service as more than a million visitors are descending on Atlanta for 10 days of events related to the game.

MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris told the AJC Monday morning the agency does not expect any service disruptions this weekend.

“MARTA’s management is negotiating in good faith with ATU Local 732 and we fully expect to arrive at a fair contract,” the agency said in a prepared statement.

“We have received commitments from ATU’s leadership that their members will continue to comply with the law to ensure that MARTA provides quality transit services for our Super Bowl visitors as well as for our daily customers who depend on us,” the statement said. “Any job action taken by union membership is a clear violation of the MARTA Act and will not be tolerated.”

The ATU could not immediately be reached for comment.