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Union votes will be counted Friday

TriMet's labor problems are one step closer to being resolved after the regional transit agency's Board of Directors unanimously approved a new collective bargaining agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union 757 at Wednesday morning's meeting.

"In the big picture, this moves TriMet closer to financial stability. It's good news and a practical and sensible approach," TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane told the board before the vote.

Members of the union representing most of TriMet's employees are scheduled to vote on the agreement on Friday. The leadership of ATU 757 has recommended approval.

Details of the agreement were not be released unless it was presented to the board. The resolution approved by the board said it would result in a "financial forecast that is sustainable, assuming historic rates of TriMet's revenue growth continue."

According to the resolution, the agreement will not reduce TriMet's absolute costs, but will allow the agency to avoid nearly $50 million in costs over its four-year term. It will also reduce the agency's other post-employment benefit liability by 37 percent, or $782 million, over 30 years.

The agreement includes 3 percent negotiated salary increases for union members on Dec. 1, 2014, and Dec. 1, 2015. It provides a $1 per hour pay increase for 345 journey workers upon ratification. It requires current and retired union members to pay a portion of their health care premiums and make co-payments for services. The agreement also includes new health care options for ATU 757 members, including some that offer more benefits.

The agreement also makes a one-time $425,000 refund to union members who paid approximately $5 million more in higher health care costs over the past two years.

TriMet and ATU 757 have been clashing over contract issues for several years. TriMet says union members must accept higher health care premium costs for the agency to become financially stable. Union leaders have blamed TriMet's financial problems on poor planning and ill-advised to expensive capital projects, including the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Line scheduled to open in September 2015.

The last contract was imposed by a state-approved arbitrator. ATU 757 is challenging it in court and its members have been working without a new contract since December 2012. The agreement is retroactive until then and would be in evvect until Nov. 30, 2016.

State Conciliator Janet Gillman helped TriMet and the union negotiate the agreement through 45 sessions. It also resolves two cases before the State Court of Appeals as well as four Unfair Labor Practices complaints pending at the State Employment Relations Board.

The resolution can be read at

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