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Santa Clarita Bus Service to Resume as Strike Ends

LOS ANGELES

September 29, 2001|RICHARD FAUSSET | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Striking Santa Clarita bus drivers voted to approve a three-year contract Friday, vowing to bring full transit service to the area today and end the 10-day work stoppage that had the local bus company running at 30% capacity.

About 80 of the 105 drivers of Teamsters Union Local 572 met Friday and voted to approve the contract with ATC Vancom, the Illinois-based company that provides bus service for the city.

"Our people felt the package was good enough, and they're going to go back to work tomorrow," said Miguel Lopez, the local's business representative. "There are improvements on medical [benefits] and new guarantees on weekly work."

ATC Vancom General Manager Ken Graska said the deal, which is retroactive to Aug. 5, gives drivers about 17% more pay in total during the next three years. Under their previous contract, drivers made $7.50 to $12 an hour, he said.

The company also lowered monthly health care payments for drivers with families and extended the guaranteed minimum work week from 32 to 36 hours.

Santa Clarita Transit normally serves about 12,000 riders a day. While some local service was available at peak hours during the strike, its popular commuter routes to downtown Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley were shut down. City officials said they received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls complaining of the inconvenience.

"I'm delighted they've come to an agreement," said Tessa Lucero, who had been riding the downtown shuttle for 10 years but resorted to a car commute recently. "I'm looking forward to taking the bus to work again."

To mend fences with riders, Santa Clarita Transit will not charge fares on local, express and Dial-a-Ride buses through Friday.

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