Archive | Labor relations/disputes

Updated 4X: WE HAVE A DEAL! TriMet, ATU 757 ratify contract agreement

Breaking news:  ATU Local 757 has ratified the tentative contract agreement; TriMet’s operators are now operating under a contract (excluding those retroactively imposed by OLRB) for the first time in, seemingly, forever.  The deal is retroactive to November 2012, and expires in November 2016.  The deal will produce savings for the agency of $50M compared to the current collective bargaining agreement; don’t know how it compares to TriMet’s earlier proposals.





Terms of the deal have not been announced, but multiple sources are reporting that a tentative deal between TriMet and it’s operators’ union, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, has been struck.

I have not seen any official release or announcement from the ATU; will update this post if I find one.

Terms of the deal, which must be approved by both the TriMet board and the ATU rank and file, have not been disclosed.

After years of acrimony, and bickering over pointless things (on both sides), it’s nice to see a deal struck rather than imposed in arbitration (assuming this gets ratified).  Better employee relations make for better service, if nothing else.

Update:  A statement from the ATU, posted on the “Transit Voice” Facebook account:

TriMet and the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 757 have reached a tentative labor agreement on a new contract. The parties reached this agreement after 45 sessions with the assistance of State Conciliator Janet Gillman. The agreement sets the terms of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement for four years through November 30, 2016. Additionally it resolves two cases pending before the State Court of Appeals as well as cases pending at the State Employment Relations Board. The agreement is subject to ratification by both the TriMet Board of Directors and the membership of the ATU. The parties bargaining teams will be recommending the details of this agreement soon with their Board and membership.

Update 2:  Someone ATU President Bruce Hansen  appears to have postedleaked the contract terms to a Twitter account.

Update 3:  The authenticity of the Twitter account @BruceHansen11 appears to be in question; indeed, given that the terms of the contract are supposed to be confidential, a leak from ATU management would be unlikely.  A certain former bus driver (and former PT contributor) is not happy with the deal, and appears to believed that the leaked terms are genuine.

Your Questions For Neil, “Round 5″, Part 2 – Ridership / Operations / Budget

Yesterday, we posted the first in a series of videos featuring Portland Transport’s interview with TriMet’s Neil McFarlane, based on your questions.
Today, here’s Part 2…

Today’s topics are Ridership, Operations and Budget:

  • Recent press about transit at historically high levels, but TriMet’s has not fully recovered to pre-2009.
  • Some service has recently been restored, how much is based on local economic recovery and how much is based on TriMet’s demands for the ATU contract?
  • How do TriMet’s unfunded liabilities factor in to how much service can be funded?
  • TriMet has recently put an agency focus on reliability, particularly with regard to MAX. What are the results?

Special thanks again to the Portland Opera for providing the venue with the great views.

Segment Navigation:

TriMet continuning to ramp up PR campaign against ATU757

The other day, Portland Transport reported on the Westside Service Enhancement Plan. While wondering about the funding sources for such an ambitious expansion of service, I did take it seriously as a planning activity–and indeed, there are quite a few good ideas in there that I would love to see implemented.

However, in my wonky haste to discuss all the fun parts–I missed this little tidbit at the end:

Additionally, full implementation of the plan is limited until we are able to restructure our employee benefits.

A few readers have suggested that this “plan” is little more than a public relations ploy which TriMet is attempting to use to drum up support for its position in the ongoing contract negotiations–and something to be discarded if and when the agency wins the concessions from the union which it seeks. I have little reason to doubt the good faith and professionalism of TriMet’s planning staff, and it’s commonplace for planning activities to include more than an agency has the ability to pay for (this provides decision-makers with more options to consider). However, when planning documents (and planning outreach materials) come laden with an asterisk, it raises red flags all over the place.

And then a link to this “Save Our Service” page appeared in my inbox–promoting a “Transit Day” event at the state capitol in Salem, at which concerned riders will be invited to–well, it’s not precisely clear what participants in this even will be asked to do, beyond generic types of political activity. But the page in question is chock full of dire warnings, including the recent warning of 70% service cuts in the future, unless “reform” to the union contract happens. (ATU, naturally, disputes these warnings).

At any rate–given that the disagreement is fundamentally over healthcare benefits and costs–union workers aren’t getting richer if they have their way, it’s just that a particular defined benefit (health insurance) has gotten ridiculously more expensive over the years–perhaps reform of this problem would be more productive? After all, the medical industry is claiming an ever-larger share of the economic pie–and everyone else is left fighting over whose own piece will have to shrink as a result. In the private sector, workers have continually gotten the short end of this particular stick. HCR is, of course, a difficult nut to crack–even the modest reforms that made up Obamacare were quite politically costly for the Democrats, and in the current political climate, further reforms are pretty much off the table, at least at a national level. But this, folks, is the real problem–those of us who care about transit, whether as riders or drivers, are right now fighting over scraps.

Two TriMet-related editorials in the morning paper

This morning’s Oregonian has two editorials (one a guest submission, one by one of the paper’s regulars) on the subject of TriMet.

The guest editorial, by Craig Boretz, Randy Miller and Angus Duncan, deals with TriMet’s funding crisis. It calls for further “restructuring” of the labor agreements, including withdrawal of mandatory arbitration. But it also calls for improving the agency’s funding model–including increased revenue sources–but the latter is contingent on the former.

The other article, by conservative columnist Elizabeth Hovde, deals with the YouthPass brouhaha. She makes the surprising (but spot-on) observation:

The state, along with TriMet, has been taking a beating for the fact that other school districts have yellow bus service for high school students, but PPS does not. In reality, we should be searching to see if there are ways to make other districts look more like Portland when it comes to transportation, not the other way around.

And concludes with

Since transportation takes such a huge bite out of state and district education budgets, before insisting that transportation be provided, we might consider placing the duty of getting one’s children to school on families — no matter a student’s age. After all, a lot of families get kids to jobs, soccer practices, birthday parties and other activities. Surely we should be able to work out carpools, joint walks or bus passes to get our kids to one of the most important things that children do.

I expect the latter to be met with howls of outrage from suburban and rural constituents–in the countryside, in particular, the journey from home to school may be one of many miles–but money spent on public transportation goes much further if it is spent in places where there is higher density. Rural yellow-bus service is very expensive to provide.

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).