TriMet makes last mediation offer before looming labor arbitration


In a last-ditch effort to avoid binding interest arbitration, TriMet today made a final comprehensive contract proposal to settle its labor agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 757. TriMet’s contract with ATU expired November 30, 2016. The parties met eight times to negotiate but were unable to reach agreement within the 150-day bargaining period and four subsequent mediation sessions. TriMet has participated in small group talks for the last two months in hopes of striking a deal.

In the spirit of compromise, TriMet has reduced its outstanding proposals to one. TriMet faces a severe shortage of Journey Worker mechanics. Except for five per year, ATU claims TriMet cannot hire any qualified Journey Worker mechanics from the outside unless ATU gives its permission. TriMet has extremely robust apprenticeship programs operating at full tilt, but it cannot keep up with increased demands for service and retirements of baby boomers. The shortage of mechanics limits TriMet’s ability to add new service.

TriMet’s only proposal deals with the mid-life remanufacturing of its light rail vehicles (LRV). A majority of TriMet’s LRV fleet is nearing its mid-life point and is in need of remanufacturing to extend the life of the vehicles up to another 15 years. Each LRV travels nearly 63,000 miles each year. TriMet has proposed for an outside vendor to perform a ground-up remanufacturing of LRVs, something TriMet’s staff have not done internally. TriMet believes remanufacturing an LRV is more akin to trading away an old LRV and getting a new one in return than it is to day-to-day maintenance of the fleet. Under TriMet’s proposal, union employees would continue to perform operating maintenance of the LRV fleet, unless otherwise agreed to by ATU.

In return, TriMet is willing to accept approximately 40 of ATU’s proposals. Key provisions of TriMet’s offer include:

  • Wage increase: 3.0% (12/2016, retroactive), 3.25% (12/2017), 3.25% (12/2018).
  • Service Workers: In addition to the general wage increase, Service Workers would advance one step (resulting in an extra 6.6% wage increase (approximately) on top of the general wage increase.
  • $1,000 one-time payment to approximately 300 Journey Workers.
  • $1.00/hr. night shift differential for Station Agents, Dispatchers, Controllers, Road Supervisors, Rail Supervisors, Lead Supervisors, all Maintenance Division employees (up from $0.25 to $0.40/hr.)
  • $350 annual uniform allowance (up from $315).
  • Increase from $0.25 to $0.30 the rate per hour that unused sick leave hours upon retirement are converted to provide additional monthly pension benefits.
  • Increase in annual boot and jacket allowance to $200 for Maintenance Division workers (up from $150).
  • Three- and four-day workweeks made available to part-time Bus Operators

If a settlement is not reached during the mediation, both parties will proceed to the scheduled arbitration next February. During that time, an arbitrator will hear both proposals and in the end, will select only one proposal that will be implemented as the contract.

Roughly, 85% of TriMet’s nearly 3,000-employee workforce is covered by the contract. Those employees have been working without a contract for a year and have been paying higher healthcare costs due to no contract in place.

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