New contract for AFSCME members at Metro

AFSCME Local 3580 and Metro reached tentative agreement July 17 on a new three-year contract covering over 300 Metro employees. Union members will vote Aug. 11-15 on whether to ratify the agreement.

If approved, it will provide immediate cost-of-living raises of 2.82 percent as of ratification, plus increases July 1, 2015 and 2016 equal to the increase in the Consumer Price Index, with a minimum of 1.5 percent and a maximum of 3.25 percent.

Metro also agreed to reset the step pay scale, at a cost of about $140,000 the first year. The step scale’s logic is that new hires start at the bottom and receive annual increases of 5 percent until they reach the top of the scale in seven years, but those proportions were compressed when previous cost-of-living increases were incorrectly applied.

The union bargaining team made one significant concession: increasing the employee share of the health insurance premium. Currently workers pay 6 percent. Metro proposed they pay 10 percent, but settled for 8 percent. Premiums vary depending on family size and which plan members choose.  Separately from contract bargaining, Local 3580 and Metro agreed to terminate PacificSource as a health insurance option effective Jan. 1, because of unsustainable premium increases. It’s being replaced with a Kaiser Permanente “Added Choice” plan, which is like a preferred provider insurance plan. Members of the bargaining unit can also enroll in the Kaiser Permanente health maintenance organization.

Other improvements in the tentative contract include a fairer policy on sick leave abuse, an increased clothing allowance for some workers, and a bank of paid time to partially compensate union member volunteers for their service on the union bargaining team. The agreement commits Metro to notify the union when new employees are hired, and give the new hires 30 minutes of paid time to attend a union orientation. It also contains an “evergreen” clause that would allow one-year extensions of the contract, with the same cost-of-living raises, if neither side wants to open the contract for renegotiation in 2017.

Local 3580 Matt Tracy, a principal planner in Metro’s solid waste division, called it a good agreement in today’s climate. Tracy said union-management relations have improved since last November, when at the union’s initiation, union Executive Board members began meeting with senior managers informally every two to three months, the first two times with the help of a professional facilitator. Tracy said the meetings help eliminate rumors and mistrust, and have contributed to a less adversarial relationship.

Negotiations continue between Metro and Laborers Local 483 over a new contract for 500 employees of the Oregon Zoo and regional parks.

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