After 10 months of negotiating and five months without a new contract, Metro Transit workers overwhelmingly approved a new labor agreement with the Metropolitan Council, which oversees the transit system.
 
Ninety-two percent of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 members voted Sunday and Monday in favor of the agreement, which will give them a 2 percent raise in each of the three years that the contract covers; 8 percent, meanwhile, voted against it.
 
Union President Michelle Sommers said the pay increase is the first one since September 2009, as the previous two-year contract included a pay freeze. The raise is retroactive to August 1, the day after the previous contract expired.
 
The new contract, set to expire July 31, 2015, covers approximately 2,300 Metro Transit bus drivers, train operators, mechanics, and support staff.
 
“You never get everything you want, obviously,” Sommers told Twin Cities Business on Tuesday. “A lot of [members] feel that the way things have gone everywhere else in the country, it wasn’t a bad deal overall.”
 
Sommers said that health care coverage will remain the same under the new agreement, which was “very important” to some members, although cost increases will take effect during the last two years of the contract.
 
The new contract will also include some changes to the seniority system, Sommers said. Bus, light rail, and commuter rail mechanics are now on three separate lists but will be grouped together on one. She said it’s a good thing, but it could affect vacation preferences and job choices for some.
 
Under the new contract, the starting pay for a bus driver is $17.27 per hour and the top wage is $24.67.
 
Voting on the new contract began Sunday after the union gave a contract presentation to members at the Ramada Mall of America in Bloomington—and it continued from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday.
 
Sommers said that this was the first contract offer that the union voted on. Last year, members agreed to work under an extension of the previous contract as the union and the Met Council continued negotiations. Sommers said the organization presented what it called its “best and final offer” on December 7 but tabled it before a vote ever occurred, made some changes that benefited members, and recently brought it back to the union.

Met Council spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge said Tuesday that the Met Council’s Management Committee will vote on the contract agreement Wednesday, and the full council will vote January 23.
 
“Metro Transit is very pleased the contract was ratified by an overwhelmingly majority of members,” Metro Transit spokesman John Siqveland told Twin Cities Business in an e-mailed statement. “We anticipate a smooth progression through the next meetings of Metropolitan Council’s Management Committee tomorrow and then the full Met Council later in the month.”
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