After round-the-clock negotiations, TriMet and union leadership unable to reach agreement on core benefit issues

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As communication and exchange of proposals continue, TriMet seeks assistance from state mediator to assist both parties

On February 4, the 150-day bargaining milestone was reached. While TriMet and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) negotiated around the clock, the parties did not reach agreement on the core issues of wages and benefits.

TriMet Executive Director of Labor Relations and Human Resources Randy Stedman has written a letter to the state’s Employment Relations Board (ERB) requesting a mediator be assigned to assist the parties toward settlement.

“After 34 bargaining sessions and agreement on many work rule and working condition provisions, we’ve been unable to reach agreement on our core issue of wages and benefits, and have requested that ERB assign a mediator to help the parties move forward.”

In an effort to keep the process moving toward contract settlement, Stedman advised ERB that he believes the parties will continue to communicate, exchange proposals and meet, as needed, while mediation is scheduled. Strained labor relations have adversely affected our operations and employee morale, as noted in the Secretary of State’s recent audit.

The contract expired on Nov. 30, 2012, and by law union members cannot strike. If a settlement cannot be reached via negotiations, an arbitrator selects one of the party’s proposal through binding interest arbitration for the contract period.

The core issues remain active and retiree healthcare costs. TriMet cannot sustain paying 100 percent of the premium cost for its platinum-level healthcare benefits for active employees and retirees and continue to fund them for another 16 years for surviving spouses and dependents.

The January 2014 Secretary of State’s audit called 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.

View the letter to ERB.