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MCTS says it has put out a generous offer to union, negotiations continue Friday afternoon

Friday afternoon update:

The county says it's put out a strong and even more generous off to the union. They hope the union accepts it.

\"If they don't and they reject it, a ton of things could happen,\" MCTS representative Brendan Conway said. \"They could say we're going to back to the bargaining table. They could sign another extension for a week, or a month, or six months, they could vote to strike, they could say we might strike. It is truly one hundred percent up to them what they decide to do next.\"

Union leader James Macon says he's worried about the potential for hundreds of part-time employees coming on board.  He says that could mean the end of full-time employees.

The contract ends at midnight Friday night.  Monitor CBS 58 for updates throughout the day.

Armed with the 'authorization' to strike if necessary, union leaders representing hundreds of Milwaukee county bus drivers and mechanics resume contract talks tomorrow, right in the middle of Summerfest.

CBS 58 doesn't know exactly how those talks will go, but if they're anything like the exchange Thursday between Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and ATU [Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998] president James Macon, things may already be off to a rough start.

At a luncheon hosted by WisPolitics.com Thursday, Macon interrupted Abele on several occasions before walking out.

Abele said he's offering to contribute money for raises at a time when other public employees' salaries are staying flat. He added that the union isn't happy bus drivers have a base pay of more than $60,000 a year.

\"Most of the people who ride the bus would love to have base pay of that and probably have a lot less. Again, I'd love to be able to do it [give union members a larger raise], but our budget comes from the state, and the state hasn't given us anymore. So we're doing what we can.\" Abele said.

The County Executive contends the offer made to union, which includes a small raise, will cost the county $3 million more at a time when no one at the state level is getting a raise.

Abele talked about how money is the biggest issue here, however, Macon told Abele several times Thursday that there are other issues.

According to Macon, issues like safety, potential part time drivers, and run times. He also said drivers are working long hours with a series of short breaks not long enough to go the bathroom.

Macon wants something concrete from Friday's meeting to bring to his members on Monday and if he gets nothing he believes action may have to be taken.

When asked to give a percentage chance there could be a strike, Macon only said it all depends on who is at the table.

Thousands of people ride the buses in Milwaukee County everyday and by the County Executive's numbers, a third of the people that go to Summerfest take the the bus, including employees.

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