TriMet wins aribtration with ATU 757

As mentioned in the open thread, TriMet has prevailed against ATU Local 757 in the abitration over the 2009 contract offer. TriMet’s “Modified Final Offer” is retroactively imposed, and expires–this fall. An announcement by TriMet is here, the ruling is here.

Earlier, The Oregonian summarized the contract proposals here, and profiled the arbitrator here. The main item in dispute was medical benefits; even with the loss, TriMet operators will still have quite good benefits (10% medical copay, no monthly premiums, and deductible of $150 per employee or $450 per family, and $5 RX copay).

The arbitrator, while awarding the victory to TriMet, did so reluctantly; the ruling contains the following tidbit (emphasis added):

In the case at hand, the Arbitrator spend a considerable amount of time reviewing the exhibits provided by the parties, listening to the audio transcript that was made of the hearing, and giving full and thoughtful consideration to the parties’ arguments. Both parties provided lengthy and well-written briefs. Ultimately, the Arbitrator is awarding TriMet’s Modified Final Offer package as he finds that it is the best total fit to the statutory criteria. He does so reluctantly, as there are parts of the package which he believes are unwarrented, poor public policy, and simply unfair.

TriMet has gone to great lengths to emphasize that this means no further service cuts this fall–which does prompt me to ask–what about the $20M contingency fund? Can some of it be used to restore service? Or is it necessary to stave off future service cuts? (It wouldn’t actually be a bad idea for TriMet to keep a nest egg–perhaps throwing it into the pension fund, from which it could conceivably borrow in the future–to help cushion the agency from future economic headwinds. But I would be much happier if it were more up-front about doing this, if that is indeed what is up).

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