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Paratransit headed to federal mediation

Clallam Paratransit and its labor union are headed to federal mediation beginning Feb. 17 after two days of negotiations last week failed to produce a new contract.

"If mediation fails, ATU will request binding arbitration," said Paul Bachtel, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587.

"ATU will do everything it can to avoid a strike."

Local 587 represents 28 drivers, dispatchers and schedulers for Clallam Paratransit, which is part of Paratransit Services Inc. of Bremerton.

Bachtel said Friday the mediator confirmed Clallam Paratransit is willing to enter federal mediation.

"So nothing will happen until then," he said.

Bachtel said federal mediation is a required step before a strike. If the dispute goes to binding arbitration, then the two sides agree to have an impartial third party reach a settlement.

Bachtel said the union is seeking a 1.4-percent wage increase, which equals about $3 a week or less than the price of a latte.

"The $1.7 million figure that's been quoted, that's just bizarre. I can't repeat what my membership said to that," he said.

Bachtel said if the union received everything it sought, not just the wage increase, which never happens, the total cost would be only $500,000.

On Monday, Jan. 4, Paratransit workers unanimously authorized a strike if a suitable contract can't be negotiated.

Bachtel has said if Clallam Paratransit workers strike, riders needing critical medical treatments still will be served.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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