Jon Hunt’s November 23, 2010 E-Mail to Neil McFarlane:
I received a copy of the email sent by Kelly asking to confirm meeting with you and Shelly on November 29, 2010. In response to your November 17, 2010 memo, the Union agreed to all of your conditions to move the current contract dispute forward, but you refused to rescind your implementation action. It was sort of a one-sided deal. It is a deal that is unacceptable to the Union, and that being said, I see no purpose for meeting.
In your TriMet website “The Latest Note” article, you cited state law reads…..”During the pendency of arbitration proceedings that occur after the expiration of a previous agreement, all wages and benefits shall remain frozen at the level last in effect before the agreement expired, except no public employer shall be required to increase contributions for insurance premiums unless the expiring collective bargaining provides otherwise.”
The “unless the collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise” wording in the law is where you seem to have a disconnect. Your predecessor, Fred Hansen, obviously disagrees with your interpretation of the law.
In a January 8, 2010 TriMet website article entitled “Continued recession requires a reduction of $20 million in TriMet’s FY11 budget,” Fred Hansen wrote….”Although I hope these other sources will materialize, we have no guarantees and by law we must adopt a balanced budget beginning July 1. The collective bargaining agreement with the ATU expired on November 30, 2009 and we are currently in negotiations with the ATU for a new agreement. Although we are not able to comment upon the substance of those pending negotiations, in most circumstances, state law governing collective bargaining requires that the current contracts provisions remain until a new contract has been put in place. The proposed budget assumes a rolling forward of provisions from the contract that expired on November 30, 2009. If negotiations produce any changes we will, of course, have these reflected in the budget.”
Fred apparently understood the words….”state law governing collective bargaining requires that the current contracts provisions remain until a new contract has been put in place,” because he acknowledged TriMet’s obligation to give any applicable wage increase effective December 1, 2009, and he acknowledged TriMet’s obligation to cover any insurance increase effective January 1, 2010 because TriMet is contractually obligated to pay 100% of the cost.
You became TriMet general manager on July 1, 2010, and shortly thereafter, you decide that the law doesn’t mean what Fred Hansen thought it meant. In our positions, Neil, you and I will come and go. But the collective bargaining agreement between the parties is a “living” document. Because you now want to interpret the collective bargaining agreement to fit your ideals, doesn’t make it right, nor lawful.
I again reiterate that the best way to resolve this dispute is at the bargaining table. The arbitration process can still move forward, and eventually, a new agreement will be forged. In the meantime, however, you need to rescind your unlawful action and focus on what is good for the community, and good for your employees.