The contract dispute between ATU 757 and TriMet has reached a new level. It is at a critical point for our members, both active and retired. It involves the unilateral action by TriMet to reduce our health and welfare benefits without bargaining. If the Union and its members don’t fight back now, the long term affects to our members by such action, could prove devastating.
The contract between TriMet and the Union expired on November 30, 2009. TriMet’s general manager, Neil McFarlane, said that TriMet learned that the health insurance premiums for the two bargaining unit plans will again increase substantially on January 1, 2011, and unlike last time, TriMet has no intention of picking up the additional health insurance costs and has no legal obligation to do so. McFarlane also said that TriMet has no intention of providing additional cost of living adjustments during the pendency of interest arbitration proceedings, and as a result, there will be no cost of living adjustment in December 2010. The problem with this position, the Union contends, is that it clearly violates Oregon law.
We believe that the attack on our insurance benefits, which has been promulgated by the conservative “think tanks” and media, and with encouragement from TriMet’s communications department, is unwarranted and ill-conceived. The Union and its members over the years bargained more for benefits, and less for wages, because we realized the importance of these benefits to our members, both active and retired. Now, we are being expected to just give these hard-fought-for benefits up, because TriMet needs to balance its budget on the backs of our members. We are not going to stand by and let it happen without a fight!
We want to send a clear message to TriMet and the public. We are abiding by the law, and we expect TriMet to do the same. Let the dispute make its way through the required process, and when a final and binding decision is made by the arbitrator, both sides will be bound by it. Perhaps TriMet’s reason for wanting to circumvent the law is because when they are required to make full disclosure, they may be unable to support their claim of poverty and need to pay for other projects on the backs of their employees.
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