Bus drivers, mechanics and other positions got raises, and the Whatcom Transportation Authority still was able to reduce employee costs after a new union contract was approved by both sides.
The WTA Board of Directors unanimously approved the three-year agreement on Thursday, Jan. 17. Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 843 ratified the contract on Jan. 8.
In an unrelated announcement at the Thursday meeting, board member Stan Snapp said he would not seek re-election to the Bellingham City Council this year.
The WTA saved money in the new labor deal by planning to close its self-run medical insurance account and obtaining employee medical insurance through the Association of Washington Cities, starting April 1. The agency and the union agreed to the change to avoid rapidly escalating benefit costs. WTA staff reported late last year the self-insurance program could become insolvent by April, due to unusually expensive claims.
By one estimate, WTA will save $400,000 in 2013 because of the medical plan change, even with 2.75 percent raises for most employees and 3.75 percent pay increases for mechanics.
Raises in 2014 and 2015 will range from 2.25 to 3.25 percent.
The labor agreement covers 188 of WTA's 220 employees. Most are in the operations division, which includes bus drivers.
Also Thursday, the WTA board elected members to a reorganized executive committee for 2013 that has four fewer members.
Board members on the committee are Snapp; Mel Hansen of Ferndale, who remains as board chairman; and Pete Kremen from the Whatcom County Council.
City Council member Jack Weiss also vied for the Bellingham position on the committee. He said he had voted last year against reducing the number of committee members from seven to three, and he would like to remain active. The board selected Snapp, after he said this would be his last year on the Bellingham council and his last chance to serve on the executive committee.