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DCTA bus drivers unhappy with ongoing contract negotiations

Jeff Woo
Denton Record-Chronicle

LEWISVILLE — Bus drivers operating the Denton County Transportation Authority buses are unhappy with the ongoing contract negotiations.

Victoria Allen, the executive board officer of the DCTA bus drivers’ union, voiced the drivers’ concerns to the DCTA Board of Directors during last Thursday’s board meeting.

“So, I am here on behalf of my drivers,” Allen told the board. “We are in contract negotiations right now. And what was first presented to us was a huge slap in our face. Almost like that 2% cost of living raise we got. You say it was five [percent], but you know, we’re not stupid. You expect a lot of bus operators.”

Although Allen voiced her concern over the contract negotiations, the DCTA Board of Directors has no say in the negotiations. That lies within the North Texas Mobility Corporation, a local government corporation established by DCTA.

The North Texas Mobility Corporation has until April 1 to negotiate the contracts. The North Texas Mobility Corporation provides mobility, maintenance, customer service and management services to clients throughout North Texas.

An applicant interested in applying as a bus operator must apply through the North Texas Mobility Corporation website portal. Bus drivers get paid starting from $16 to $18.56 per hour.

“We remain very confident that NTMC and its union colleagues will come to a positive and equitable solution for all,” David Magaña, the North Texas Mobility Corporation spokesperson, said in a statement.

“We have been negotiating in good faith with every expectation that we will reach a contract agreement both to the union and to NTMC.”

Allen told the board that DCTA didn’t appreciate the drivers and criticized the board for not discussing drivers’ input when the board approved agenda items.

This includes driver tablets with an onboard app that communicates route changes to drivers in real-time and allows WiFi onboard vehicles as a passenger amenity. Allen told the board the tablets weren’t functional.

The tablets in question come from the Swiftly Transit Platform project that was approved during the approval of the proposed fiscal year 2023 budget, which cost about $895,803.

Javier Trilla, DCTA vice president of innovation and information technology, spoke about the tablets while providing updates on innovation and information technology initiatives at last Thursday’s meeting.

Trilla said training was required for the tablets, which took place from December 2022 through March 2023. Hardware installation began in March of last year.

Trilla said the tablets did have technical issues. The tablets were not able to withstand the summer heat last year and had to be replaced. The tablets also included technical issues affecting tablet mounts and wiring harnesses, which led to lower operator adoption and an effect on passenger count.

“You don’t spend any money on us,” Allen told the board. “Anytime the board recommends something before you implement it, ‘How about talking with the drivers and seeing how that’s going affect us?’”

The Denton Record-Chronicle contacted Allen outside the DCTA office located in Lewisville for more information regarding the contract negotiations after she finished speaking in the forum.

Allen said the contract negotiations started in January, had two follow-up meetings this month and will have two more negotiation meetings in March.

Allen said drivers during the summer and winter are limited in hours due to the scheduled routes being changed.

“So a lot of drivers aren’t working 40 hours a week, we weren’t guaranteed 40 hours a week,” Allen said. “We deserve it.”

Allen also said drivers had no say when bus drivers needed to start carrying heavy fare boxes, which used to be handled by the bus fuelers, who also agree with Allen.

“So we have to carry through fare box and for my fingers and hurts,” Allen said. “So not only is my body getting hurt, my hands are getting hurt by having to carry the stupid fare box, which wasn’t always like that. ... Well, I guess [administrators] decided that was too much for them to handle even though they added more people on staff.”

The Record-Chronicle contacted Allen to clarify whether she was directing her comments during the public forum to Paul Cristina, who serves as the chief executive officer for DCTA and is on the board of directors of NTMC.

“DCTA ultimately holds the purse strings,” Allen said in a text message. “NTMC works within the confines of DCTA.”