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No fare increase foreseen to pay for new agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union 757, which previously approved it.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - The new labor agreement covers about 85 percent of the agency's workforce and runs through November 2019.The TriMet board of directors ratifies a new contact with the regional transit agency's largest union at its Wednesday, Dec. 13 meeting.

The contact had previously been approved by a majority of the voting members of Amalgamated Transit Union 757. Its approval is a break from years of bitter relations between TriMet and the union during and shortly after the Great Recession, when the agency's revenues were falling.

After the board vote, ATU 757 President Shirley Block issued the following statement:

"We're pleased that TriMet's Board of Directors has voted to ratify this contract, which was overwhelmingly approved by ATU-represented workers late last month. Although we believe this agreement represents a compromise on both sides, it's a major step in the right direction for TriMet's frontline workers. It provides annual pay raises for all ATU-represented workers, helping our members better deal with Portland's skyrocketing cost of living. And critically, it helps some of our retirees over age 65 lower their out-of-pocket health care costs by moving them to a health care plan with flat co-pays. This is a win for our community, a win for workers, and a win for the company."

The new contact includes salary and benefit increases expected to cost $2.243 million over the last contact. TriMet does not anticipate increasing fares to pay the additional cost, however.

The contact also includes a concession from ATU 757 that TriMet says is needed to hasten the restoration of its aging light rail vehicles— the authority to hire an outside vendor to provide ground-up remanufacturing of the fleet of MAX trains. According to TriMet, the process will extend the life of the fleet, increase MAX reliability and allow TriMet to respond to demands for additional service despite a severe shortage of Journey Worker mechanics.

Members of the union have been working without a contact since the last one expired in December 2016. The new contact — officially known as the collective bargaining agreement — covers a three-year period from then through November 2019.

According to TriMet, most of the financial investments focus on lower-paid, lower-tenured employees. The contract also retains all healthcare costs concessions negotiated in the previous contract.

TriMet negotiated with ATU Local 757 leadership for some ten months before reaching a compromise on the new contact. The final agreement contains approximately 40 of the ATU's proposals and the TriMet's MAX restoration proposal.

The contract also includes changes beneficial to TriMet regarding continuity of service and a two-year initial bid requirement for Junior Partspersons, along with a handful of housekeeping matters. In addition, ATU 757 also agreed to withdraw an Unfair Labor Practice charge it filed earlier as part of the deal.

Among the key provisions for union employees are:

• Wage increases of 3.0 percent (12/2016, retroactive), 3.25 percent (12/2017)and 3.25 percent (12/2018).

• One-step increase resulting in an approximate 6.6 percent wage hike on top of the general wage increase for most of the 110 Service Workers.

• A one-time payment of $1,000 to 273 Journey Workers.

• An increase in night shift differentials for several classifications.

• The retention of the status quo on healthcare benefits, except a no-cost change to the supplemental retiree healthcare plan.

Roughly 85 percent of TriMet's nearly 3,000-employee workforce are ATU 757 members. TriMet reached a tentative agreement with ATU Local 757 leadership on Nov. 10 and union workers overwhelming approved the contract on Nov. 28, with 94.7 percent of votes in support.

The full agreement and additional information can be found at trimet.org/newcontract.

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