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99 CHAPTER 9 Benefits and Issues Related to Workforce Integration and Wage Parity As noted in Chapter 3, a number of transit systems across analysis of the benefits of changing to wage equity or an inte- the country have operated ADA complementary and fixed-route grated workforce. In fact, some respondents reported their sys- transit services with an integrated vehicle operator workforce. tems began with these features, and others made the change In some cases, they have also achieved wage parity for opera- decades ago and did not track the benefits over time. The study's tors assigned to each mode. Other transit systems are consid- key findings include the following: ering workforce integration and wage parity as a way to address ADA paratransit vehicle operator workforce issues. Systems consistently reported a number of general benefits As part of this study, targeted research was conducted for sev- that came with workforce integration and wage parity. Ben- eral selected systems that have achieved or are moving toward efits reported include the ability to cut overtime and contrac- workforce integration and wage parity. The research method- tor costs, a more satisfied union, better run coverage, fewer ology is first presented. Next, the salient experiences of the rider complaints, a stable workforce with low rates of absen- systems are discussed by topic. The report concludes by pre- teeism, and increased disability sensitivity among operators. senting the experiences of four systems in detail as case studies. Although some services cited financial benefits as a major A table that lists basic information about the systems involved reason for the move to workforce integration and/or wage in the study is provided at the end of this chapter. The protocol parity, they also frequently said the commitments of local and interview form used to collect information from systems politicians or board members, complaints about contractor- is also included as Appendix D. provided service, and union demands were reasons for the While the systems contacted had varying experiences, all change. spoke favorably of the decision to institute workforce integra- Systems often noted that operating costs increased when tion and/or wage parity. For these systems, the benefits from the paratransit was brought in-house and wages were equalized. change outweighed the associated costs and challenges. In some In the case of several services, however, respondents cited cases, systems reported significant performance improvements long-term cost savings due to improved productivity, in and cost savings, belying the view held by some in the transit addition to expected benefits like efficiency, run coverage, industry that the benefits of integration and wage parity come workforce morale, and customer satisfaction. only at a financial cost. These experiences suggest that insti- The fact that workforce integration and wage parity often tuting workforce integration and wage parity, done correctly, occurred simultaneous with the shift from contracted is a "win-win" change for transit systems, operators, and riders service to in-house service makes it difficult to isolate the with disabilities. Systems that have already made such a change benefits that can be exclusively attributed to workforce are important resources for thinking about and instituting integration/wage parity. these changes in new contexts. Most systems saw union-related benefits that followed While workforce integration and wage parity are not neces- from workforce integration and/or wage parity, or at least sarily linked, the majority of the systems interviewed had insti- the absence of significant union-related problems or issues. tuted both to some degree. Although many systems reported Systems reported that their initial training period is shared similar experiences and broad themes emerged, the research for all operators, with additional training for specialized uncovered a great deal of diversity in terms of workforce struc- runs. When bringing paratransit in-house, systems generally ture and the reasons for instituting workforce integration modified training curricula to address the unique nature of and/or wage parity. No system reported conducting any formal both paratransit and fixed-route runs.