There is a possibility of a transit service disruption by members 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 strike as early as July 1. In the event of a work stoppage by the Union which prevents Metro from providing safe and reliable service:
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, and now the process is in the hands of a neutral Fact Finder who will offer his recommendations to the parties.
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.
It is Metro’s hope that Local 788 will not resort to illegal activity to advance its bargaining position. Metro understands the importance of public transportation to the region. We are 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.