Metro Transit workers reject contract proposal

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Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 narrowly rejected a contract offer from Metro Transit in two days of voting Sunday and Monday. The vote was 53 percent to 47 percent to reject the three-year contract.

“The split in the membership coincided with the split in the board,” said Michelle Sommers, ATU Local 1005 president. The board had voted 9-8 to recommend adopting the contract, she reported.

“What [the vote] says is we need to go back to the table and get the job done,” she added.

Sommers said this morning she had already telephoned Metro Transit to request additional negotiations and “we should have some dates by the end of the day.”

Two years ago, ATU Local 1005 went on strike for 44 days after voting down Metro Transit’s contract offer. This year, “there’s not a lot of interest in that route by either side,” Sommers said. “Both sides want to see this get settled.”

“Right now negotiations remain civil,” Sommers said. “We want to keep it that way. We want to get the job done.”

The current contract expired July 31, 2005.

The proposed contract offered workers a 1.5 percent wage increase Feb. 1, 2006, followed by a 1.5 percent Feb. 1, 2007 and a 1.75 percent increase Feb. 1, 2008.

Single employees would continue to pay no premium for health insurance for the duration of the three-year contract.

Family health insurance premiums would have remained unchanged for 2006, with increases of 9 percent in 2007 and another 9 percent in 2008.

No changes were proposed for retiree health coverage, Sommers said.

Local 1005’s members include bus operators, bus mechanics, light rail operators, light rail mechanics, electricians, office personnel and others. The diversity of the type of work members perform can make contract negotiations more difficult, Sommers said. “Everybody has individual issues.”

She noted that the vote to reject the contract was “not just about money.”

“There are work rules and policy issues,” she said.

“Back pay was an issue,” Sommers added. Although the current agreement expired July 1, 2005, the proposed contract’s first pay increase would not have become effective until Feb. 1, 2006. That meant no retroactive pay increase going back to the July 1 expiration date of the current contract.

ATU Local 1005 includes about 2,150 members. Metro Transit, including buses and light rail, provides about 240,000 rides daily.

“People associate Metro Transit with vehicles,” the Metro Transit website reads, “but our strength lies in our staff members who drive and maintain the buses and trains, answer the phones and support our operations.”

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