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TriMet disputes union maintenance charges

TriMet is denying union accusations that poor maintenance contributed to Monday's MAX train derailment.

Amalgamated Transit Union 757 Vice President Jonathan Hunt charged Wednesday that a bracket that should have been replaced broke under the train, causing a set of wheels to jump the track when the train pulled out of the 82nd Avenue station. Among other things, Hunt said TriMet was spending money to expand the MAX system instead of maintaining it.

But TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch disputed those allegations later Wednesday.

"We disagree with many of the ATU allegations, but will highlight just a few," Fetsch said in a statement to the Portland Tribune. "We disagree with the ATU’s assertion that maintenance and training have been deferred to support rail expansions or the other types of expenditures mentioned. All brackets in the fleet have been inspected by ATU mechanics and our vehicles are safe."

Fetsch also dispute a claim by Hunt that TriMet is hiring outside workers to close a maintenance backlog.

"Mr. Hunt is correct, we do have a proposal to allow us to hire some experienced mechanics from the community to augment our extensive apprenticeship program. However, this proposal is not because of any poor planning on the part of management. It is about having the ability to provide employment opportunities to well-trained, existing journeyman mechanics in the community, recent graduates from local colleges and highly-trained veterans during times when we have higher need or attrition than originally anticipated," Fetsch said.

The derailment delayed service in parts of east Portland for much of Monday evening. triMet blamed it on a faulty brake part.