A KCI upgrade worth considering
The Kansas City Star
If you miss your flight because of a long wait for a shuttle bus to a Kansas City International Airport terminal, you’re probably not inclined to keep it a secret from airport managers. That’s probably why the top complaint at KCI is poor service from the red and blue buses.
In an effort to remedy the problem — and save money — the Aviation Department proposes to bid out the work, now performed by Local 500 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The final say lies with the City Council, and the department makes a very good case.
Last week a council committee heard from several Local 500 workers who opposed outsourcing and said they loved their jobs. No doubt some do, and do a good job as well.
But in an interview, Aviation Department Director Mark Van Loh said only a handful of airports provide shuttle service with in-house city employees. And he noted that at least two of the workers testifying Thursday were facing disciplinary action for various reasons, including failure to show up for work.
Van Loh ticked off a few telling numbers: Last year, more than 30,500 hours of scheduled work were missed. More than half of shuttle bus workers are on family medical leave at any one time.
As a result, overtime costs have ballooned — more than $500,000 last year and $200,000 through this May. A dispatcher who testified last week alluded to the problem, saying she had worked 60 or 70 hours a week because “some people won’t come to work.”
Then there’s the number of accidents. “A bus ran into a Chevy Tahoe” last Thursday, Van Loh said. “That’s 51 accidents in 2.5 years.”
If Standard Parking wins approval for its contract, city workers could apply for their old jobs, or for one of the 85 openings elsewhere at KCI. With Standard Parking, their pay would drop from an average of $17 an hour to $10, but they would be eligible for tips that could boost their cash pay to levels higher than before. The new jobs would be represented by the Teamsters Union Local 41. They would have health insurance and vacation, but no pension. Local 500 was offered the chance to bid on the work but declined.
Van Loh says the savings would be substantial — $7 million over five years — and Standard Parking would also cover snow removal and insurance costs, as well as assume responsibility for any liability. Standard would use driver-monitoring technology, which would provide data to be used in driver evaluations to improve service.
Council members opposed to this package should explain why they think the status quo is preferable.