TriMet again asks state to enforce collective bargaining statutes

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With the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) again refusing to comply with state collective bargaining statutes governing negotiation procedures, TriMet today reluctantly filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the ATU. The ULP asks the State Employment Relations Board (ERB) to require the ATU to bargain in good faith by correcting and resubmitting its Final Offer.

“Collective bargaining statutes clearly state how the parties should move through the negotiation process and maximize the opportunities for settlement,” said TriMet Executive Director of Labor Relations and Human Resources Randy Stedman. “Over TriMet’s consistent objection, the ATU has acted in bad faith by including in its Final Offer proposals that are either illegal or permissive subjects of bargaining.”

This ULP filing comes one day after ERB ruled across-the-board that the ATU violated state collective bargaining statutes by intentionally delaying collective bargaining and unlawfully demanding that TriMet agree to permissive subjects of bargaining.

TriMet’s Final Offer includes 15 proposals that reflect substantial movement toward the ATU. “It is fair and equitable to our employees and taxpayers with a focus on realigning benefit costs to be in line with peers and putting TriMet on long-term sustainable financial footing,” said Stedman. “We wish the ATU had made similar movement toward us. Instead, they submitted virtually all of their 70-plus original proposals.”

Stedman noted that the ATU’s Final Offer cost summary fails to disclose millions in annual expense that TriMet would incur if ATU proposals were implemented.

“This approach of ‘hiding the ball’ confuses rather than clarifies the true cost of their proposal and it certainly does not move the parties toward settlement.”

Status of Negotiations
In May, after nearly 40 negotiation sessions with no progress on healthcare costs, TriMet declared impasse in negotiations. State statues require specific next steps in the strike-prohibited bargaining process. This includes a requirement that both sides submit a “Final Offer,” with proposed contract language and a cost summary within seven days of declaring impasse (May 15). TriMet complied with all of the requirements, but the ATU has not.

Background
The January 2014 Secretary of State’s audit found that TriMet’s “most serious and looming concern” is related to the cost of retiree healthcare. TriMet is working to reform these benefits through contract negotiations to be in line with peer agencies. The valuation of the retiree healthcare liability, known as Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB), shows that the unfunded liability is $950 million, which is roughly twice the size of the agency’s annual operating budget.

The ATU represents 2,100 of the agency’s employees.