TriMet declares impasse in contract bargaining

By Don McIntosh

TriMet declared impasse Oct. 9 after nearly 12 months of union contract negotiations, beginning the process for the contract to be decided by an arbitrator. Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 757 and TriMet each submitted final offers Oct. 19. They’ll have a chance to revise those offers after an arbitrator is selected.

Local 757 represents about 2,700 TriMet employees, including bus and light rail operators, mechanics, cleaners, and customer service representatives. The union’s previous three-year contract with TriMet expired Nov. 30, 2019.

ATU is proposing a three-year contract with 3.5% annual raises and a clause barring contracting out bus cleaning and maintenance work.

TriMet is proposing a two year contract—expiring Nov. 30, 2021—with just one 2% raise retroactive to Dec. 1, 2019, and no raise for 2020. TriMet also wants to delete all contract provisions that spell out its bus and light rail mechanic training programs, including requirements that existing low-paid service workers be given opportunities to apprentice as mechanics.

TriMet also wants to replace the term “journey worker” with technician, and says specifically that district employees won’t maintain and repair electric or hybrid buses.

After an arbitrator is selected, there’s a 30-day cooling off period, after which each party submits a revised final offer 14 days before an arbitration hearing. After the hearing, the arbitrator will pick one side’s offer in its entirety.

“In a world where our lives are completely changed and the hazards are even higher, we’re not asking for the moon,” said ATU Local 757 Vice President Jon Hunt.

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