Metro Transit Bus Drivers Agree to Wage Freeze

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, which represents about 2,200 Metro Transit employees, approved a new contract.

Nine months after their previous contract expired, Metro Transit bus drivers and rail operators on Monday approved a two-year contract that includes a wage freeze.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1005, which represents about 2,200 Metro Transit employees, will be affected by the contract's terms, according to the Metropolitan Council, which operates the local transit system.

According to the union's Web site, the contract was approved as 78 percent of the union's members voted in favor of its terms. In addition to bus drivers and rail operators, the union includes some clerical and technical workers, as well as mechanics.

The deal still needs to be approved by the 17-member Met Council. Spokeswoman Michelle Fure on Thursday said that the Met Council will consider its approval of the contract this month. Both parties already negotiated the contract, with the council's regional administrator acting on its behalf. Fure deferred all questions regarding details of the contract negotiations to the union.

Michelle Sommers, president of the local union, told Twin Cities Business that when Metro Transit employees are hired, they begin at a pay level that is 70 percent of “top pay.” Employees then receive progressive raises of 5 percent each year until they reach top pay-meaning it takes six years. Those who receive top pay can only receive raises as dictated by the contract with the Met Council. Under the recently approved contract, employees who receive top pay cannot receive increased wages, but progressive raises remain intact.

Sommers said that the trade-off for drivers is that they will get to keep their existing health care plans, which can't be altered by the Met Council under the terms of the contract.

The previous contract between the Met Council and the union expired last July. The new agreement will be applied retroactively to cover the period from August 1, 2010, through July 31, 2012.

Sommers said that the union has been in contract negotiations for more than a year, stretching back to before the prior contract expired. She also said that drivers haven't received raises since September 2009.

Pat Born, the Met Council's regional administrator, said in a statement that he's “very pleased” with the agreement. “These are challenging economic times,” he said. “Our employees recognize our financial situation, and we appreciate their willingness to be part of the solution.”

Born acknowledged that health care costs are rising faster than inflation, and “the agreement establishes a labor management committee that will further explore health care design and costs.”

The Met Council, a planning organization for the seven-county metro area, operates the bus and rail system, collects and treats wastewater, plans parks, and administers funds for low- and moderate-income housing.