Monterey-Salinas Transit has reached an agreement with its bus driver and mechanics union and the U.S. Department of Labor in a dispute over pension reform that will allow the local bus system to claim millions in federal grant funding and avert deep service cuts.

According to a press release issued Friday by MST, the agreement will free up $3 million in federal funding for the local agency and head off "emergency bus service reductions" set to take effect Jan. 5.

The release said MST, the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Labor Department had been in "several weeks of intense negotiations" over the recent adoption of the 2013 Public Employees Pension Reform Act. The union had asked labor officials to withhold the transit system's federal funding.

MST had scheduled public hearings on possible bus service reductions for Jan. 2 in Salinas and Jan. 3 in Monterey, but those are now canceled.

MST cautioned that the agreement only applied to the $3 million federal grant and does not resolve the disagreement over state pension reform.

MST said it would schedule a new series of hearings after the holidays to seek input from customers on potential long-term bus service cuts if federal funding is withheld in the future.

The federal grant represents about half of the $6 million MST receives from the federal government, which represents about a quarter of its annual operating budget. The rest is covered by state sales and fuel taxes and passenger fares.


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