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June 28, 2013

Possible Metro Service Disruptions Due to Labor Dispute

Patti Beck
Director of Communications

There is a possibility of transit service disruption by members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 788, the Union that represents Metro Call-A-Ride, MetroBus and MetroLink operators, mechanics and some clerical employees.

Metro employees have no legal right to strike. However, members of the Union are informing Metro customers about the possibility of a labor action as early as July 1. In the event of an illegal strike by the Union which prevents Metro from providing safe and reliable service:
• There will be no MetroBus or MetroLink service.
• If sufficient manpower is available, Metro Call-A-Ride service will be provided, but will be limited to services contracted by the Transportation Management Association. No other Metro Call-A-Ride service will be provided.
• Monthly and weekly passes will be accepted into the next month or week based on the number of days of the service stoppage. OR, customers may return their passes by mail (with a return address) to Metro, Attn: Pass Return, 707 N. 1st Street, St. Louis, MO 63102 and in exchange, they will be sent the equivalent number of day passes.
• There will be no cash refunds.
• Metro transit service will resume after operators and mechanics notify Metro of their intention to return to work in sufficient numbers to provide a safe and reliable transit service and the system can again be put back into operation after appropriate safety inspections. It will take some time to recertify the system for safe operation.
• Customers will be kept informed through social media, at or by calling customer service at 314-231-2345 or 618-271-2345 during business hours.

“This community relies on Metro for more than 900,000 transit trips each week. It is unfortunate that the ATU membership would even consider taking illegal action against a community that has done so much to support its transit system,” says Bi-State Development Agency/Metro President and CEO John Nations. “It is our hope that Local 788 will not resort to illegal activity to advance its bargaining position. We would strongly prefer to resolve our differences across the bargaining table.”
IBEW Local 2, IBEW Local 309 and ATU’s Metro Call-A-Ride Unit already have new agreements in place with Metro. The contract for ATU Local 788 MetroBus and MetroLink operators, mechanics and clerical employees is the only agreement that has not been settled.
After lengthy negotiations, Metro joined Local 788 in a non-binding dispute resolution proceeding in an effort to reach an agreement. Labor and Management have thoroughly discussed the issues in this proceeding. The dispute resolution process is in the hands of a neutral Fact Finder.
The primary sticking point concerns retirement benefits for future Metro employees. Currently, the pension fund for operators, mechanics, and clerical employees is underfunded by more than $83 million. 77% of all current pension contributions are paying for previously earned benefits for both retired and current employees.
The Union would like to continue the current plan to cover newly hired employees. However, detailed financial analysis of the ATU plan leads to the conclusion that the Union’s position is financially unsound.
While Metro has proposed no changes to the retirement benefits for current ATU Local 788 employees, Metro believes the best way to provide a sustainable retirement plan going forward is to provide new hires with a 401K based retirement program while allowing existing employees to remain in the current pension plan. In fact, this Union and its representatives agreed to a 401K based plan for Metro Call-A-Ride employees. Metro is only asking for changes for new employees, which are the same changes all of the rest of Metro employees, including the salaried workforce, have seen in their retirement plans.
Metro understands the importance of public transportation to the region, and is optimistic that the outstanding issues involving bus and rail operators, mechanics and union clerical employees can be resolved without any formal or informal disruption to transit service.

The Bi-State Development Agency/Metro (BSDA/Metro) is the operator of the Metro public transportation system for the St. Louis region, which includes the 87 vehicle, 46-mile MetroLink light rail system; 374 MetroBus vehicle fleet that operates on 75 MetroBus routes; and Metro Call-A-Ride, a paratransit fleet of 121 vans.

BSDA/Metro also owns and operates St. Louis Downtown Airport and its surrounding industrial business park, and the Gateway Arch Riverboats, as well as operates the Gateway Arch Revenue Collections Center, the Gateway Arch Transportation System, and the Gateway Arch Parking Facility.

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