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Capital Metro board awards bus operations contract to single firm, MV Transportation

Tuesday, August 13, 2019 by Ryan Thornton

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board of directors voted Monday to combine operations at its two garages under one company, Dallas-based MV Transportation, Inc.

The contract includes a base five-year period for $575.1 million with two optional three-year extensions and a 5 percent contingency. At a total of $1,405,337,529, the bus contract is the largest in the agency’s history.

Capital Metro CEO Randy Clarke said the transit agency is “beyond committed” to ensuring that the consolidation benefits contracted employees such as bus drivers and maintenance workers as well as customers. Some employees, however, said the contract should not be awarded until the board has more information regarding compensation and benefits like medical insurance and sick leave.

MV’s contract requires it provide the same or greater wages and benefits to all union employees who will be working under the company, but Brent Payne, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, told the Austin Monitor after the vote that many workers are still apprehensive. Though the union has finalized around 80 percent of the healthcare negotiations, Payne said there are many transitional issues left to address before the new contracts take effect Jan. 5.

With the agency’s bus operations currently split between French multinational firm RATP Dev at the East Fifth Ops facility and MV at the North Operations site, the RATP Dev employees will be most affected. Thomas Egan, chief executive officer of MV, said he is “very confident” there will be an agreement and that MV will be able to welcome all of those employees.

Despite those promises, Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza said she could not vote for the contract when it’s not clear how it will affect so many lives – particularly since many of them are unable to take the time off to express their concerns.

“The devil’s in the details and I don’t have all those details yet,” she said, adding that many of the affected employees are likely to be her constituents.

Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion said he is comfortable with the provisions and negotiations made so far to ensure that employees and their families are not negatively impacted by the change. More importantly, Travillion said, the individuals who will be most affected by the changes generally agree that progress is being made.

With a motion from Travillion, the board approved the contract 6-0-1 with Garza abstaining.

Chief Counsel Kerri Butcher said Muhammad Abdullah, the agency’s procurement director, received a protest against the contract following the board’s July 29 meeting. After a thorough review, Butcher said staff members have denied the protest and notified the Federal Transit Administration about the agency’s intention to move forward with the contract.

“This contract is the backbone of the way we will deliver our service to the public,” Chair Wade Cooper told the Monitor following the board meeting. “Having two different companies and two different garages operating independently created some inefficiencies just in how we executed on a day-to-day basis.”

In support of the contract, Payne urged the board to end the request for proposals process to allow the transit union to continue negotiations and make further progress. “This has been a hard issue for us,” he said. “If (this process) is not done correctly, we’ll be back.”

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