ST. LOUIS — MetroBus riders experienced long delays Thursday that the transit system said were due to “organized work action” amid ongoing contract negotiations.
On social media, Metro warned passengers of delays of up to 30 minutes, citing contract negotiations with their partners at Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788 and "organized work action by the union" causing staffing issues. Thursday afternoon, Metro updated its message to tell passengers that delays could be longer than an hour.
Passengers were forced to feel the weight of the worker shortage.
“I'm just trying to get to where I'm going. I got business to take care of. Missing this bus and having to wait for the next bus. That don't make no sense," said Letti Noblin, a passenger.
"I've been here waiting for a good hour or so, hour 30, and none of the buses that I have been looking for have come. You know y'all working the people too much and now it's like they need help and y'all not giving people the help," said Antonio Jones, another passenger.
Reginald Howard, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788, told 5 On Your Side his office had been aware of what was going on but did not organize a strike
“By law, we can’t,” he said.
Howard did tell 5 On Your Side that they were in negotiations with Bi-State Development, the company that operates MetroLink, and that the first couple of meetings did not go well.
Howard expressed that low wages were among the issues. Base pay for drivers currently sits at $18.25 an hour, less than the starting pay offered to school bus drivers and trash collectors in the city.
"We all work together but we move the city. Give us our respect," Howard said. "Give us fair pay. Give us treatment as far as security is concerned and then let's go to work. Until then we're going to have problems."
He also said the conditions that employees work under, including security.
5 On Your Side took their concerns to Bi-State CEO Taulby Roach.
“Our operators deserve a wage increase in this environment,” he said.
Rauch also took the time to point to recent strides to help employees, like pay bonuses during the pandemic.
"Look we need to work that out within the normal negotiation of our economic capabilities and that has to do with what the regional tax revenue is and be sure that this all works together,” Rauch added.
The Union says they will be going back to the table on negotiations to continue working things out.
They are set to meet in the middle of August
Rauch said his office would be soon to meet sooner.