Leaders in Stevens Point, Wausau cut deals with unions, save bus - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Leaders in Stevens Point, Wausau cut deals with unions, save bus systems

 By Anna Carrera - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

STEVENS POINT & WAUSAU (WAOW) -- City leaders in Wausau and Stevens Point said they wanted to make sure they took care of business before time ran out. They worked with their local unions to make sure the buses stay on the road.

When Stevens Point leaders realized their transit system hung in the balance, they decided to take action instead of waiting for legislators in Madison to figure things out.

"A question mark is not solid enough for these folks who have no other choice to get to their jobs, to fill their prescriptions, to get to the doctor," said Stevens Point Mayor Andrew Halverson. "We're just not willing to have a community that doesn't have a public transit system."

Their buses run around town mostly through funding from the federal government. In order to keep the green rolling in from Washington, local leaders had to make sure they kept collective bargaining in the mix.

"If we were not able to maintain collective bargaining for those transit employees, our entire transit system would have been at risk under this new law," said Halverson. "That's just a stance that I'm not willing to accept."

With the budget repair bill in the works, Halverson said he knew he was running out of time. The city made a deal with unions.. asking them to pay for more of their retirement funding.. take a wage freeze for 2011 and only a 1% increase for next year.

"The Governor has signed the law that would make what we're doing here illegal after the publication of the particular law," said Halverson.

"We needed to have a contract with the transit union, otherwise we'd be at risk of losing over a million dollars of federal funding," said Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple.

Wausau's Metro Ride faces a similar dilemma after their transit union's contracts expired last year. Wausau's City Council worked out a deal with their union, creating a new contract that will be good through June 2013.

"I think that's good news for a lot of people," said Tipple. "We work real hard to keep a good bus service."

Buses in Point and Wausau will continue along their familiar routes, at least for the next few years, which buys local leaders time to plan for the future.

Online Reporter: Anna Carrera

Powered by Frankly