Tag Archives | budget

More on TriMet vs ATU 757: Whose cuts?

A list of cuts (benefits/salary reductions, layoffs, etc.) affecting TriMet personnel over the past decade, particularly those affecting the agency’s non-union personnel.

There has been much public discussion of the various cuts to benefits that TriMet is asking its operators’ union, (Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757) to make–and to what extent TriMet’s management and non-union staff has been asked to sacrifice as well. A email, from one Josh Collins, a TriMet communications manager, has been forwarded to portlandtransport.com, and contains a list of concessions made over the past decade or so by TriMet’s non-union workforce. All of the items on this list, including editorial comments, are taken verbatim from the email.

  • In FY2003 management health benefits changed. Employees enrolled in the PPO medical/dental plans pay an annual deductible co-insurance for most services with higher co-insurance for prescription drugs and premium cost sharing to cover dependents. This reduced costs and cost growth. Between 2003-2010, management health benefit costs per employee have increased at an annual rate of 5.8 percent, while per employee unionhealth benefits costs have increased 11.6 percent per year. In FY11 the management increase in the monthly contribution to health care premium basically doubled. Management now pays six percent of premium costs and single employees, who used to pay nothing, now pay six percent.
  • In FY2003 the management defined benefit pension plan closed to new employees. New employees participate in a defined contribution plan and TriMet contributes eight percent of the employee’s salary to the plan. This limits TriMet’s pension obligation to eight percent of salary, which is more comparable to private sector retirement benefits.
  • In FY2009 new non-union employees with 10 years of service are eligible for retiree health benefits but must pay the full cost. More comparable to private sector.
  • In FY10 and FY11, management received no wage increases.
  • FY11 increase in management monthly contribution to health care premium.
  • Between FY01-FY11 management staff was reduced by 10%.
  • TriMet implemented a hiring freeze, we have laid off non-union employees and reduced the hours of others.
  • TriMet discontinued tuition reimbursement for all employees for FY10 and FY11

Many of these items are already public knowledge (recent changes to benefit plans for all classes of employee are described in the annual report, for instance). Others are non-material items which I haven’t seen publicly documented elsewhere. Some of the items on the list are limited in scope to “management” (whether that includes only senior managers, or anyone who has direct reports; I do not know). Others refer to “employees” generally (or “non-union employees”), classes which may or may not include management.

And some of the indicated cuts do apply to TriMet’s union workforce–while the agency hasn’t laid off any union employees yet, it has cut hours. After all, service hours have been reduced–if you reduce service hours (and thus payroll hours) without reducing headcount, the only way to do that is by having your employees work less. My assumption is that overtime hours are being cut, and that full-time employees are not being asked to work less than full-time hours. This seems to be the preference of the union, which sees excessive overtime as dangerous (and understandably so), and probably would prefer to avoid layoffs. An interesting question: Would it be more cost-effective for TriMet to lay off employees instead of cutting overtime–given that escalating healthcare costs (which TriMet must pay on a per-employee rather than per-hour basis) almost certainly exceed the cost of overtime wages? Given the safety concerns of overtime, and the human cost of firing people, I’m actually glad the agency hasn’t done this; though I’m sure it’s crossed the mind of people both at TriMet and at the union.

In several key areas, however, TriMet’s union employees do get a “better deal” than its non-union employees are currently getting–particularly in the area of healthcare and pension benefits. New non-union employees are on a defined-contribution plan (similar to a 401(k), I suppose), an arrangement where the employee assumes much more financial risk; whereas union members continue with defined-benefit plans (where TriMet assumes the risk). And as has been noted, union employees currently do not contribute to healthcare benefits, whereas the non-union employees must do so.

The interesting question, of course, is what is fair–and what is not.

ATU 757 members (both regulars on this blog, and anyone else who cares to comment) are encouraged to respond to this posting; and/or to refer to commentary on this issue posted elsewhere. (Though as always, keep it civil–this applies to everybody). We are also inviting representatives of the union (an email will be sent to union representatives), should they wish, to submit material for rebuttal–either as a guest column, or as material we can incorporate into a follow-up article. We realize this article contains mainly “management” talking points, and are more than willing give ATU757 equal time in this important debate.

[edited for grammar]

Report from the Budget Forum: Too Much Advocacy?

Last night a large group crowded into the Plaza Conference Room at the World Trade Center downtown to help give input on how PDOT should deal with a large gap in their budget.

The attendees were certainly engaged, but perhaps a little biased. It appears that certain stakeholder groups responded very strongly to Commissioner Adams’ invitation to ‘pack the room’ made at the Advisory Committee meeting.

Sam Keynoting

Sam Adams charging the citizens at the forum.

Electronic Polling

This is the wireless keypad we used to vote our values.

Receiver

The wireless receiver, connected to a laptop, which compiled our responses in real time.

Audience

The room was full…

Small Group

Small groups discussions prior to voting.

Last night a large group crowded into the Plaza Conference Room at the World Trade Center downtown to help give input on how PDOT should deal with a large gap in their budget.

The attendees were certainly engaged, but perhaps a little biased. It appears that certain stakeholder groups responded very strongly to Commissioner Adams’ invitation to ‘pack the room’ made at the Advisory Committee meeting.

When polled about how they arrived at the meeting, 20% walked, 20% biked, 20% took transit and 30% drove alone. When asked about preferred modes, 39% responded ‘cycling’ :-)

OK, so we know which constituency is the most organized…

But the responses are still interesting. Some reflected a bimodal or bell-shaped distribution, indicating that perhaps different groups had different values, but some were strikingly unified and I think this exercise will yield valuable input for the Commissioner and the Advisory Committee.

Full results are promised on the Commissioner’s blog later this week.