Link Transit employees expressed their discontent with the board’s decision to turn down the $2,500 retention bonuses during Link Transit's recent board meeting.

Back in July, the Link Transit board proposed a $2,500 one-time retention bonus for Link Transit bus drivers and operators. 

These bonuses were geared towards combating their growing understaffing issue, along with higher rent and living costs for their employees.

After receiving more information on inflation bonuses in August, the board voted 4-5 to approve the bonuses, ultimately voting down the proposal.

On Sep. 20, Wenatchee City Councilmember and Link Transit bus driver Jose Cuevas described how the board’s denial of these bonuses has impacted bus drivers.

“I want to see if I can tell my kids that there's going to be cereal in the morning, and that I'm going to pay for the PUD light next month,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas has been working with Link Transit for over 15 years and shared that this board meeting was the first meeting he was ever able to attend.

He later told the board that the money meant for employee retention bonuses were not going to come out of the board’s pockets.

“I'm gonna I'm gonna say the truth, believe it or not, if it hurts, I'm sorry, but it's not going to come out of your pockets. The money is not coming out of your pockets,” Cuevas explained. “Link transit has no money and if it's out there, it'd be a wonderful gift to us. We do need it, it's a necessity to continue surviving in this world.”

Other people commented on their disappointment with the board’s decision to refuse retention bonuses later in the meeting, including a letter written by an anonymous Link Transit employee.

“As a non union member, I was described as a mostly lower earning employee. This is not at all accurate for our fleet technicians.”

The correspondent explained how many of Link Transit’s fleet technicians come from highly skilled trade backgrounds and that Link will need to invest in technicians well versed in handling electric buses in the near future.

“With electric vehicles being the future of Link transit, we would be hard pressed to find a single technician qualified to work on a 700 volt electric bus for the pay I currently receive.”

They also wrote that the benefits technicians receive may not cover the gap between qualified technicians and Link's proposed pay, which is necessary to keep Link Transit operational and functional.

“We will not need more drivers for the additional routes we promised the public because there will not be enough technicians to keep the buses safe and operating properly.”

On Aug. 16, Link Transit Planning Manager Cristina Barone explained how the shortage was due in part to operators retiring or leaving for higher paying jobs. 

Operators were previously being asked to work on one of their days off due to this shortage. 

During this meeting, Barone also shared that Link Transit was short six full-time employees for covering all of their service areas. Barone said they had four operators in training, but would not be ready by October 3.

On Sep. 8, Link Transit officially announced that they had to reduce bus service due to not having enough operators between October 3, 2022 to January 2, 2023.

Link Transit also suspended service on Routes 32 and 34 in Leavenworth due to staffing shortages.

To learn more about route changes effective after Oct. 3, visit this link.

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