Metro, union agree to more talks

News-DemocratSeptember 11, 2013 

Wednesday contract talks between Metro and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788 produced no agreement but were "constructive."

"Both sides have agreed that they had a long day. It was constructive and they are considering proposals from both sides," according to Metro spokeswoman Patty Beck.

Another meeting is expected to be scheduled as soon as possible, but nothing will be scheduled before next week.

The sides have been at a stalemate for months as they try to work out a deal that would prevent a work stoppage on Metro buses and MetroLink light rail.

Metro President & CEO John Nations said he is optimistic about the negotiations, but he was not taking questions from the media after Wednesday's meeting.

"All sides realize that we are going to have to make some changes in order to make this agency successful within the financial constraints that we have to operate under," Nations said before the meeting Wednesday.

But Nations said significant hurdles remain.

"It's clear we have agreement on three essential elements," Nations said. "First, the agency doesn't have the money to fund the demands of the union. Second, we couldn't meet their demands without additional tax money appropriated from the jurisdictions we serve. Third, there is no reason to believe the public would support such additional tax support to fund the union demands, and we are not asking the taxpayers to do so."

Union leaders could not be reached for comment about the negotiations.

The contract currently being negotiated represents approximately 1,500 MetroBus and MetroLink operators, mechanics, and some clerical employees. About 1,000 Metro employees have already seen changes to their pension benefits including the Metro Call-A-Ride operators who are also represented by a separate contract with ATC Local 788.

"This region relies on Metro for more than 900,000 transit trips each week," Nations said. "We understand the importance of public transportation. We are hopeful the outstanding issues involving our bus and light rail operators, mechanics, and union clerical workers can be resolved without any formal or informal disruption to transit service."

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