Rep. Dougall wants UTA to bid out operations.


With everyone in the middle of a recession and the Utah Transit Authority in the middle of a labor dispute, there's no better time than the present to find some savings, says state Rep. John Dougall.

The Highland Republican wants the Utah Transit Authority to bid out their operations -- bus and train drivers, mechanics, etc. -- in an effort to cut costs. UTA contracts with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 382 for bus and rail operations. Operation costs come to about $80 million for busing, $34 million for rail and $17 million for paratransit service.

UTA leaders and leaders of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 382 failed to come to a contractual agreement late last year. The union -- which makes up 1,300 of UTA's 2,000 employees -- asked a judge earlier this month to assign an arbitrator to the situation. A ruling is expected any day.

"I don't know what they'll find at the end of the day. I'm saying they ought to ask," said Dougall, long an advocate of open markets and an opponent of unions. He says he wasn't asked to float the idea by anyone.

Newly installed UTA chairman Greg Hughes says he's open to suggestions.

"I have a relationship with John. I trust his motives," Hughes said. "The sad part is we've really enjoyed strong labor relations."

Dougall has asked that the issue be addressed at the Legislature's September interim meetings. He's asked Rep. Craig Frank, R-Cedar Hills, to put it on the agenda in the Government Operations Committee. Frank, who didn't return a call seeking comment, has been a central figure in the state's privatization efforts.

UTA is using outside help for some of its paratransit operations, but Dougall would like to see a nationwide call to see what else the authority can come up with.

"It's a down economy. We need to get creative. Let's put it out," he said.

The down economy has been tough on UTA. They laid off 34 workers in May, the first layoffs in the authority's 40-year history. They've also eliminated 72 positions through attrition. The moves have saved UTA $6.6 million a year, though most of the employees were not part of the union, according to UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter.

Joe Pyrah - Daily Herald | Posted: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 12:30 am


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