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No end to GET strike, but more negotiations planned

No end to GET strike, but more negotiations planned

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - No resolution was found in Wednesday morning's negotiations to bring the city's bus strike to an end. But, officials plan to meet again Thursday morning.

Negotiation teams for both Golden Empire Transit District and the union had a session Wednesday that lasted a couple hours.

"We had some really good discussions," Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer Chester Suniga said.

He said GET first came in with their same offer, but each team then met by themselves, and GET returned and asked for more talks.

"There are some other components to the negotiations besides wages," GET spokeswoman Gina Hayden said. "So, I believe they're looking at really everything on the table."

This week, GET had publicly disclosed what they're offering to the striking Teamsters: a two-year extension on the existing contract with pay increases of 2 percent this year and 2½ percent next year.

GET officials said their funding is uncertain, and they can not pay more in raises than the district can afford.

So, what's new in their position?

"I'm guessing they may be being a little more crafty, creative with their numbers," the union's Suniga said. "I'm not 100 percent sure."

The union originally asked for 4 percent raises in each of the three years of a new deal. The union later proposed a 3 percent pay hike. GET rejected that.

Suniga said during Wednesday's session that he brought up salary increases GET management has been given, starting with director Karen King.

"I did bring up the issue of her almost 5 percent increase," he said.

Watchdog database Transparent California shows King with regular pay of $203,552 in 2012. It lists her salary at $213,641 in 2013.

"She said her increase was based on merit," Suniga said King had responded to his question.

"The administration employees get merit increases based on evaluation," Hayden said. Asked who does the evaluation of King, Hayden said that was the GET board of directors.

The GET board is appointed. Hayden said two members are named by the Bakersfield City Council, two are appointed by the Kern County Board of Supervisors. And, those four members appoint an at-large director.

Hayden also confirmed the two board members appointed by the City Council have been asked to make a presentation at the next council meeting. She said presentations to the council are "not unusual."

About 250 bus drivers, mechanics and other staff went on strike July 15, unhappy with pay and part-time work.

GET officials said they are open to binding arbitration, but the Teamsters have refused. During the arbitration period, employees would return to work, according to GET.

Both sides said they hope for progress after Wednesday's contract talks.

"I'm hoping it's movement in the right direction," the union's Suniga said. "And, we can get Bakersfield moving again."

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