Palm Tran Bus Drivers Request Hazard Pay Due to COVID Threat

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Palm Tran bus drivers returned to the negotiating table on Thursday.

This time around, they are asking for extra pay for driving during the coronavirus pandemic.

They originally asked for time-and-a-half pay for hazard pay, but ended up agreeing to 32 hours of comp-time.

The negotiations come as Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1577 says 11 Palm Tran employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

“It’s becoming evident to us that it’s becoming more dangerous and so this will go some way to help some of our employees,” ATU Local 1577 President Dwight Mattingly said.

“We believe we’ve come up with a very fair way to provide some additional appreciations to them in the form of compensatory time,” Palm Beach County Assistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron says.

“We think we’ve done a number of things to ensure the safety of our passengers and also our drivers,” he adds.

Our news partner, WPTV NewsChannel 5, 5 recently discovered that 81 Palm Tran operators missed a day of work, after Mattingly said some of the operators were afraid of getting infected with COVID-19 on the job.

However, Palm Tran says the absences were not all due to sick leave.

Mattingly tells WPTV that he believes Palm Tran is taking the COVID threat seriously by implementing health checks for drivers, sanitizing buses, distributing personal protective equipment, having rear entry and exit on buses, and requiring masks while onboard.

“The challenge is being able to make sure the passengers keep the masks on and wear them when they board the bus,” Mattingly adds.

And when that does not happen, Mattingly explains that operators are instructed to offer a mask, contact dispatch and continue in service.

Thursday’s agreement still needs to be approved by the union membership and the county commission.