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Union ratifies TriMet labor agreement, ending years of strife

TriMet's largest union voted to ratify a new labor agreement with the regional transit agency Friday.

TriMet's Board of Directors approved the contract Wednesday, meaning that it takes effect immediately, ending years of increasingly bitter contract disputes between the agency and Amalgamated Transit Union 757.

“Our members fulfilled their commitment to their passengers and the citizens of the community by accepting reduced health care benefits,” says ATU 757 President Bruce Hansen, referring to one of the most contentious issues.

Hansen also praised ATU’s bargaining team and state conciliator Janet Gilman, who mediated the negotiations and “whose efforts made finding the common ground possible.”

Hansen called on TriMet to fully fund its pension and other commitments to retirees, something TriMet says the new contact will help accomplish.

“But the gigantic elephant in the room is that 44-years of TriMet failing to fund its promises to its current and future retirees. That is the issue that needs to be addressed in the next two years. It is my hope that the new trend toward cooperation will help make that happen,” says Hansen, who nonetheless notes the two sides have moved toward more effective cooperation now that they have been able to successfully resolve a number of outstanding issues in recent months.

The agreement will save around $50 million over its four-year term and $782 million over the next 30 years. Provisions include:

• Contract term: Dec. 1, 2012, when the last contract expired, to Nov. 30, 2016.

• Negotiated wage increases: 3 percent on Dec. 1, 2014, and Dec. 1, 2015. All journey level workers also receive a $1/hour increase.

• Health care for active employees: TriMet’s contribution is capped at 95 percent of the premium for one plan, partial payments to a Health Savings Account for another.

• Retiree health care: Employees hired after agreement was approved no longer will be eligible for post-65 health care insurance coverage, and also will be limited to a $800 per month stipend for pre-65 retiree coverage with which they can purchase insurance through TriMet or have the stipend deposited into a Retiree Health Reimbursement Account.

• Direct hires: TriMet will now be able to hire up to half of the positions filled for each apprentice program annually from outside the agency. TriMet also will be able to hire up to five journey workers annually from outside the agency.

• Previous disputes: Ends two legal challenges pending in the Court of Appeals and four Unfair Labor Practice charges pending before the Employment Relations Board.

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