CATS workers protest what they call unfair working conditions

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POSTED: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 6:15pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 4:38am

Dozens of members of local 1546 took their day off and protested on the steps of Baton Rouge City Hall. The union members, who were mainly made up of Capital Area Transit System workers, said they have problems with working conditions, hiring part time workers, and a breach of contract. All this more than a month after voters in baker and Baton Rouge voted to approve an almost $11 million property tax increase to expand CATS service.

"We are having so many different issues at CATS that we needed to sit down and resolve them. I wrote CATS several letters, I wrote the chairman of the board several letters so we can sit down and resolve some of the problems," Larry Patin, Union President, said.

After tax payers passed a tax to help fund the cats operation, employees said they're still not getting what's owed to them. With the promise of more part time employees in the future Patin said he's worried full time employees will begin to lose benefits.

"They deserve their benefits, I can not let him bring in 25 part time employees, and lose full time employees. You know that hurts the pension plan and the way people get their benefits," Patin exclaimed.

"The company also wants to take our benefits. He (CEO Brian Marshall) wants to turn the company in to a part time company," Debra Hamilton, a 12 year veteran bus driver, explained.

CATS CEO Brian Marshall was unavailable for comment Monday.

Board president Jared Loftus did issue a brief statement though, in part it said, “I understand that the union is eager to negotiate their contract. There are many complaints that have been alleged; however, there are formal procedures in place to handle the complaints. Until we are able to discuss these issues in a formal process, we will not negotiate them publicly through the media."

Until the company can reach an agreement with its employees though union members have promised to picket until their voices are heard.

"Now that the tax is passed, it's like we don't exist anymore. So we're out here fighting for the change, we're gonna stand until change is made," Hamilton said.

Workers plan to continue to their protest tomorrow across the street from the CATS terminal.

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