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Rapid riders raise concerns amid union bargaining

Rapid central station.
Hilary Farrell

Continued friction between Rapid officials and its local union raises concerns among some riders.

Several residents addressed the Rapid Interurban Transit Partnership board last week related to service, and ongoing tension.

The union’s contract expired a year ago, effectively freezing wages and benefit levels, among other items. Employees now face severe healthcare hikes beginning October 1.

Dionne is from Grandville and says as a regular rider she’s worried about the service. She’s also worried about the healthcare increase.

“I’m really torn apart that this is going on. And so I ask that you just look within your hearts to make sure the riders are OK, and also the Rapid drivers are OK.”

Heidi DeVries says she relies on the Rapid’s GO! Bus to get around and is worried about driver turnover.*

She says in her experience, good drivers leave quickly amid the current landscape, and riders are frustrated. She’s concerned service will only get worse. 

“And it’s just getting really ridiculous that for a multitude of reasons, you can’t keep the help.”

A Rapid spokesperson clarified GO! Bus services are contracted through MV Transportation, and as such, drivers are not a part of union contract negotiations.

MV Transportation officials addressed the board in May regarding previous concerns on metrics, including service complaints.

The board includes mayors of the Rapid’s six-city coverage area.

Board members didn’t directly respond to concerns during the meeting, but there were several references to it being a hard year.

The board and union are expected to meet again on Wednesday, September 7.

It follows two previous rounds of negotiations over the past couple of weeks, and a long stall in talks prior to that.

Rapid CEO Peter Varga has indicated he will not take a raise until bargaining is complete, according to August committee minutes.

A Rapid spokesperson says that would come up during his annual review, which is scheduled for later this month.

*Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify contracted GO!Bus services.

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.
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