The Jury Is Out

The Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB) heard charges filed by the Union against TriMet for unfair labor practices on May 16-18, 2011 in Salem, Oregon. Complaints heard by the Board included the allegation that TriMet violated ORS 243.672(1)(e) by submitting a proposal in its final offer that did not arise, or logically evolve, from TriMet’s final offer during bargaining.

The other complaints alleged that after the ATU filed the above unfair labor practice complaint, TriMet violated ORS 243.672(1)(a) and (1)(e) when it took the punitive step of suspending the cost of living adjustment payment that was scheduled for December 1, 2010, and refused to pick up the increase in health care premiums that became effective January 1, 2011. The Union claimed that this action by TriMet violated the status quo by TriMet refusing to make those payments.

The hearings before the Oregon Employment Relations Board were heard in two parts. The charge that TriMet changed its bargaining position was heard separately by the three-member board of ERB. The Board will issue a ruling by August 11, 2011. The Board could agree with TriMet that it did not change its bargaining position, or could find TriMet did in fact alter its position andrequire them to change it.

Regardless of what ERB rules, the interest arbitrator has been selected and the matter is scheduled to be heard by the arbitrator on January 13-16, 2012. Once the hearing is concluded, legal briefs will be filed which normally takes 30-45 days, and the arbitrator’s decision on a new contract is expected sometime late April, early May 2012.

The other two complaints were heard by an ERB administrative Law Judge whose decision and final order by ERB is expected by the end of this year. Should ERB find that TriMet violated the law when it unilaterally changed its 17 year past practice of continuing wage and insurance premium increases during expired terms of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement, TriMet will be ordered to return to status quo which would mean reinstate the original health care plans, pay all ACOLA wage increases and reimburse employees for all out-of-pocket costs incurred as a result of TriMet’s action.

This could amount to millions and millions of dollars liability to taxpayers and TriMet would be requjired to continue status quo and all terms of the expired contract until the interest arbitrator’s decision on a new contract expected in late April, early May 2012.

Such a huge financial liability on taxpayers as a result of TriMet’s mismanagement should signal a change in upper-level management at TriMet. If it doesn’t, then the taxpayers are clearly being “taken for a ride” by TriMet.

Fraternally,

Jonathan J. Hunt

President – Business Representative

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