First Transit fires back at protesting Rochester bus drivers - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: First Transit fires back at protesting Rochester bus drivers

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- First Transit bus drivers hit the streets late Friday protesting "a lack of a contract." On Monday, Cincinnati-based FirstGroup America Inc. went public insisting a contract remains in force with Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 1005.

First Transit operates city bus routes in Rochester. On Friday, the transit workers held signs in downtown Rochester and tried to gain public support for a new contract.

"What the message is, is that we're asking them to support transit. Transit is a major issue here in Rochester. We're just asking their support to help us preserve what we have," one protester said on Friday.

Stephanie Creech, FirstGroup America Inc. manager of corporate communications', said in a statement that when the old contract ended Dec. 31, 2012, First Transit and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 1005 signed a 30-day rolling extension. Creech said this agreement will go on until either First Transit or the union chooses to cancel it.

Creech said that all current employees are receiving step wage increases under the existing agreement. She went on to say that First Transit is continuing to negotiate in good faith with ATU 1005. A federal mediator is involved in negotiations between First Transit and the union.

The Rochester City Council awarded a contract to First Transit to start servicing the city bus routes in July 2012. The move touched off a legal battle between the city and the company that previously handled bus service, Rochester City Lines.  RCL sued the city last year, challenging the bidding process. An Olmsted County judge ruled the city was not biased against Rochester City Lines in awarding a contract to First Transit.

First Transit operates in 235 locations in 41 states, according to the company's website. The company has 15,500 employees that operate 7,000 buses nationwide.

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