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MIAMI (CBS4) – Residents of Miami-Dade who rely on the county’s bus and rail service will not have to worry about a slowdown, according to the head of the transit union.

John Bland head of the Transport Workers Union Local 291 (TWU) said he is assuring the public that bus and rail services will be on time.

“We are proud of the public transportation services our dedicated members deliver everyday and we will absolutely continue that excellence day in and day out,” he said.

The union represents some 3,000 workers who operate the County’s bus, rail and mover services.

Members of the local union, upset that Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has called for employee pay and benefit cuts, are reportedly planning an illegal work slowdown on August 15th and 16th.

But after hearing of the attempt, by unidentified individuals, to call for a sick out of transit workers, the union leadership immediately denounced the rumors. Members were instructed by the union that such behavior would “not be tolerated.”

“Our members are exceptional public employees who transport more than 250,000 citizens every day to work, college, and medical appointments,” Bland said. “The public has rightfully depended on us for over 40 years and can count on us every day. While we understand how demoralized our employees have become given the unprecedented financial hardships their families have faced, they will always meet their public duties. There will be no sick out and we will proudly operate on schedule,”

On Wednesday Yselta Llort, the county’s interim transit director, warned employees not to take part in the rumored slowdown and threatened to fire those who did, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.

Top TWU officials said they did not endorse the work slowdown, which would entail employees calling in sick and not coming to work.

“Our employees, like the rest of the thirty thousand county employees, are upset at negotiations but we’re not about to resolve anything by turning on the public,” said TWU Local 291 spokesperson Ken McKay.

County officials have said all transit services will be operational next week, but if slowdown occurs, all customers will experience delays in Metrobus and Metrorail service. Since Metromover is an automated service, delays are not expected. The Special Transportation Service (STS), which is contracted out, should also not be impacted.

According to a county transit department release:

Miami-Dade Transit is ready to implement a contingency plan to continue providing transit service in case the work slowdown occurs. However, we ask that those who have pressing appointments to meet on those days make alternate transportation arrangements, if possible, in case of delays or service disruption.

Gimenez’s budget proposal calls for county employees to contribute an additional five percent of their salaries to cover the costs of health insurance and ends a three percent pay increase. It also eliminates 1,300 positions countywide. The measures are needed to help close a $400 million budget gap for the coming year which begins on October 1st.

Last month Miami-Dade County Commissioners approved Gimenez’s proposed rollback of the millage rate from 11.04 to 9.74 for the next fiscal year.

Gimenez promised during his campaign to lower property taxes from the rate set by former Mayor Carlos Alvarez.

Gimenez said that by adopting the millage rate it will lower taxes this year and keep taxes flat in the 2012-2013 budget; thereby balancing the books for two years to give the community some stability.

Under the new rate, homeowners will save roughly $134 per $100,000 of property value. For the average homeowner with a $250,000 property, the savings would come out to roughly $335 in the coming year.

The commission will vote on the final budget next month.

For more information, log on to the Miami-Dade Transit Website


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