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Transit union files grievance over Erie, Pa., driver's firing
[November 13, 2008]

Transit union files grievance over Erie, Pa., driver's firing


(Erie Times-News (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 13--On Sept. 30, bus driver David Justka had his third on-the-job accident.

The Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority fired him for the second time in three years.

Now, his union is trying to get him reinstated again.

In a grievance filed Friday, the union is arguing that Justka's firing was unfair, said Richard Perhacs. a lawyer for EMTA.

Ben Carrick, president of Local 568 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, declined to comment Wednesday.

EMTA Executive Director Dennis Solensky referred calls to Perhacs.

It will likely be months before the grievance is resolved, Perhacs said.

If the union's members vote to pursue the case, he said, it most likely will go to arbitration three or four months from now.

Justka was first fired on Sept. 13, 2005, and reinstated in October 2006, after an August 2005 accident that killed a surgeon who was bicycling near the intersection of West 38th Street and Sterrettania Road in Millcreek Township.

The surgeon's widow sued EMTA, which settled the lawsuit in late October for $500,000.

Justka's driving record then included four crashes and numerous traffic violations.

However, the company's disciplinary policy at the time required that employee records be wiped clean each year, and the arbitrator ruled that the agency could not take prior accidents into account.

That policy changed in September.

But Perhacs said it still is not clear if the arbitrator will look at Justka's record.

"We certainly intend to make the argument that his entire record is relevant" in ordering Justka's dismissal, Perhacs said. "There was latitude under the old agreement to use discipline that was very serious, (but) the line was blurry about what could be used and what could not."



After the most recent accident, which left a 16-year-old pedestrian with minor injuries, the EMTA suspended Justka without pay and fired him on Oct. 16.

The union earlier argued that the suspension should have been paid. Perhacs said the new grievance likely would supersede that complaint.


Justka was cited for failure to drive on roadways maintained for traffic after the most recent accident.

He is pleading not guilty; a summary trial is scheduled for Nov. 20.

Perhacs said video from the bus showed it was across the white line marking the road's edge.

Perhacs said that if an arbitrator reinstates Justka again, the agency might ask a judge to overturn the decision.

But judges rarely get involved in arbitration disputes, he said.

"We'd have a driver on the road that we think shouldn't be there, but we would have likely no alternative but to comply with it," he said. "Those are the rules."

Reporter Kara Murphy contributed to this report.

REBECCA HARRIS can be reached at 870-1739 or by e-mail.

To see more of the Erie Times-News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.GoErie.com.

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