Without a breakthrough, TriMet signals it will seek assistance from state mediator
On February 4, the 150-day statutory bargaining period ends, and with just two remaining bargaining sessions scheduled, TriMet calls on the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) to take advantage of this opportunity to come together on the core issues of wages and benefits.
In a letter sent to the ATU today, TriMet Executive Director of Labor Relations and Human Resources Randy Stedman wrote, “We all want a good outcome for our employees and your members, and as noted in the Secretary of State’s audit, strained relations between the ATU and management adversely affect our operations and employee morale.”
The contract expired on Nov. 30, 2012. By law union members cannot strike, so if a settlement cannot be reached via negotiations, an arbitrator selects one of the party’s proposals for the contract period.
Stedman also noted in his letter that “If our original proposal, sent to you on November 30, 2012 had been accepted, employees would be paying less for their health care benefits than they are now and would have received 2% annual wage increases.”
To date, the parties have participated in 32 bargaining sessions. TriMet believes that the sessions have been productive, as the parties have reached an understanding on a number of minor work rule and working condition provisions.
However, “the core issues in these negotiations are active and retiree healthcare costs. TriMet cannot continue to pay 100% of the premium cost for its platinum-level healthcare benefits for active employees and retirees and then for another 16 years for surviving spouses and dependents. On this issue, and the other compensation increases proposed by the Union, the parties have made no progress.”
The recent Secretary of State’s audit stated that TriMet’s “most serious and looming concern” is related to the cost of healthcare benefits and the $852 million unfunded liability for retiree health care. TriMet is working to reform these benefits through contract negotiations to be in line with peer agencies.