Some unionized Metro Mobility drivers oppose a proposed $31.8 million contract with a nonunion firm, saying it will lead to the loss of nearly 100 jobs.
But the Metropolitan Council, which operates Metro Mobility, says Maple Grove-based Transit Team ranked the highest in the competitive bidding process. The council is not required to hire companies that only employ unionized drivers, said spokeswoman Kate Brickman.
After the council's Transportation Committee approved the contract Monday, it will be considered by the full board on Wednesday.
Metro Mobility is the federally mandated transportation service for riders who are unable to use regular transit.
The five-year contract being considered by the council involves transporting people to adult day programs throughout the metro, part of the broader slate of services provided by Metro Mobility. The service is currently provided by Ohio-based First Transit, which employs unionized drivers.
Bill Wedebrand, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 120, said he is concerned members will not be provided with health care and retirement benefits, should they be hired by the new company.
"Our concern for our members losing their employment is a very serious issue for us, but the potential negative impact to the ridership that utilizes this service is also a huge concern," Wedebrand said. Many of the vulnerable clients who use the service have established relationships with drivers, and "consistency and continuity is very important," he said.
Mike Richter, president of Transit Team, told the council's Transportation Committee Monday that the firm will try to hire as many existing drivers as possible "to smooth the transition." The company offers annual pay increases, life insurance, free turkeys at Thanksgiving and holiday bonuses, he said.
The Teamsters union wants the council to review the bids again.