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TriMet, union clash before negotiations

TriMet and the union representing most of its employees are sparring over upcoming labor negotiations as their current contract expires.

The contract is set to end on Friday, Nov. 30.

On Tuesday, Amalgamated Transit Union 757 accused TriMet management of refusing its request to open the upcoming negotiations to the public.

On Wednesday, TriMet replied it was willing to hold public negotiations, but wants to first discuss the issue with the union at a closed-door session set for Friday.

“We continue to believe that open access to the process is in the best interest of our community and the workers who provide the community with transit services. We are talking about public monies and a public service so members of the public deserve a seat in the room as do the people who serve them,” ATU President Bruce Hansen said in a prepared statement released Tuesday.

"TriMet is committed to transparency and, as a part of negotiated ground rules, will propose to invite members of the press to attend, even though all previous negotiations with past contracts have been closed sessions," the regional transit agency replied in a prepared statement issued Wednesday.

In addition, TriMet said it wants to compare proposals with the union for reducing health care costs, a major issue in the last contact.

"TriMet is ready to exchange proposals, with the agency’s top priority focused on reducing the costs of one of the richest health care benefits in the public transit industry. The current contract resulted in modest changes to health care benefits, but the costs remain unsustainable and keep the agency at risk to continue service cuts and fare increases to balance its budget," TriMet said in the statement.

Under state collective bargaining laws, the current contract remains in effect until a new one is negotiated and approved by the union and TriMet's board or directors.