Fact Check: True, False and Misleading Claims
TriMet and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Local 757 have been engaged in negotiations since October 2019. There has been disagreement between TriMet and ATU leadership about TriMet’s efforts to restructure our maintenance work groups, which would move the agency away from the old apprenticeship programs that have not met agency needs compared to modern, more successful external training programs
In response to a recent and confusing post by the ATU, TriMet has compiled a fact check and seeks to provide a clearer picture of the need for change and what is being negotiated.
TriMet’s goal is to ensure we maintain safe practices, keep pace with changing technologies and industry best practices, ensure our employees do not develop skill gaps, and maintain cost-effective programs that are the best use of limited taxpayer dollars.
We remain fully committed to the training and development of our hardworking employees and to working with ATU leadership to negotiate a contract that is fair and sustainable.
“TriMet Takeaways to Make Transit Unsafe.”
TriMet’s proposed restructuring of our maintenance work groups will have zero effect on the safety of transit. We take pride in and trust the work our skilled maintenance employees do every day to keep our system safe and running smoothly.
We have identified and proposed changes to our programs to better meet the agency’s demand for skilled labor, advance diversity goals, keep pace with technological developments, and be more cost-effective. TriMet anticipates that these changes will advance our safety initiatives with the benefit of hiring well-trained and experienced technicians and mechanics who have a proven track record in their field.
All proposed changes, to both training and oversight, will continue to meet internal safety metrics as well as all national regulations and requirements set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“[TriMet] believes that there should be NO training program for bus and facilities.”
TriMet is proposing to eliminate the internal diesel mechanic and facility apprenticeship programs. These programs have proven to be both ineffective and very costly. TriMet is simply not large enough to efficiently maintain a high-quality apprenticeship program in these areas. Instead, TriMet will hire individuals who have completed apprenticeship or training outside the agency and who have demonstrated their skill in the field. For current employees, we will refocus internal training resources, which will allow the agency to further improve and update the skills of our existing mechanics, training them on new technologies.
- TriMet’s internal apprenticeship programs are not keeping pace with the available external accredited diesel programs.
- Hiring experienced diesel mechanics and facility maintenance technicians, who have the education, training and experience, will improve our performance and better meet current and projected demands.
- Refocusing our training efforts will help advance the skillsets of existing employees, allowing additional training for new technologies.
- This is projected to save more than $3 million per year.
““[TriMet] wants to contract out ALL new electric bus work.”
For employee safety, TriMet has proposed that work on the electric propulsion systems, high-voltage batteries and connections, and the high-tech exteriors on electric or hybrid buses not be completed in house, at this time. We are in the early, prototype phase of testing electric buses from different manufactures with varying technology. When TriMet chooses an electric bus technology and purchases a fleet in numbers, we will talk with ATU about what part of this work can be safely and effectively accomplished in house.
- The maintenance and repair of these systems currently require sophisticated engineering and programming knowledge and industrial facilities to reprogram, rewire and handle the toxic materials involvedt similar work for MAX Light Rail and existing hybrid vehicles.)
- This proposed language is consistent with work that ATU has agreed to exclude before. (TriMet and the ATU have existing agreements that contract out similar work for MAX Light Rail and existing hybrid vehicles.)
- The complexity and sophistication of the evolving electric bus propulsion and battery technology is currently far outside of what TriMet can safely self-perform.
“[TriMet] is not offering ANY apprenticeship opportunity to current service workers.”
While we are proposing to end our poor-performing apprenticeship programs, we would still provide an opportunity for service workers who meet the minimum qualifications of the trainee classifications to be promoted. TriMet’s proposal will still provide a pathway for service workers with the minimum necessary qualifications to advance their skills and assume more complex, higher paying jobs. Rather than training them through TriMet’s ineffective apprenticeship program, we would offer tuition reimbursement to allow service workers and laborers access to the technical classes required to meet the minimum qualifications for the trainee positions. ATU has rejected the offer of the tuition reimbursement approach.
“Continues to propose doing away with ALL state or Union training oversight.”
TriMet is proposing to move away from an outdated apprenticeship program, which includes the restrictive and inflexible Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) requirements. The BOLI requirements, which are really designed for multi-agency and multi-company programs, are unnecessary for an internal training program, and inappropriately expensive for a single public entity. TriMet is proposing to hire trained bus mechanics and create an internal training program for other classifications that allows TriMet to meets its changing needs. Like any employer with an internal training program, those are not subject to BOLI oversight. ATU will continue to play an important role as the union representation for these employees, but TriMet will maintain oversight of how it hires and trains its employees.
TriMet will continue to meet internal oversight and safety metrics as well as all national regulations and requirements set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
- The ATU has continued to insist on:
- Hiring of ATU members only, regardless of qualifications
- Maintaining a rigid training system
- Providing 100% paid, 2 to 4 years on-the-job training
- The ATU has refused to consider a training model that would meet TriMet’s operational needs.
“[TriMet] wants to do away with Assistant Supervisor positions.”
Assistant Supervisors in Facilities and Maintenance of Way will be retained. They have proved highly effective in their roles.
TriMet is proposing to eliminate the position of Assistance Supervisor in Bus Maintenance and Rail Equipment Maintenance because as union members, they cannot perform some of the essential functions of Supervisors. These functions include, but not limited to, engaging in performance management, implementing quality control, conducting misconduct investigations, issuing discipline, responding to grievances, scheduling overtime, monitoring and working with employees on time loss, evaluating probationary employees, and working flexible schedules to better meet the needs of the work and cover for each other.
Current Assistant Supervisors can and have applied for the expanded number of Supervisor positions.
“[TriMet] wants to strike out ANY mention of Journey workers in the contract.”
The term Journey Worker simply means that the worker has completed a BOLI apprenticeship program. If a worker receives training through a different process, they do not carry the title “Journey Worker” despite the fact their training is equivalent and potentially superior. In fact, most workers in this field do not have journey cards from BOLI, as it is not an industry standard. The industry standard is to hire candidates who have education and experience for the job, provide TriMet-specific training and apply a continuous learning training model to keep up with technological change. With the elimination of the internal BOLI apprenticeship program, future hires will not be Journey Workers; however, they will be fully trained and qualified. We are proposing to eliminate the formal title of “Journey Worker” to match this change.
ATU has proposed that outside hires must start at a lower rate than Journey Workers, despite the fact they have sufficient training and are performing the same work. TriMet believes this is unfair to those workers who have proven the skill and capability of doing the same job in other settings. Requiring fully trained and qualified new employees to spend up to two years at a lower pay scale then their skills justify is both unfair and negatively affects TriMet’s efforts to attract skilled and diverse applicants, including women and people of color.
- Removing Journey Worker titles is a step in changing the way TriMet hires new employees, expanding opportunities for qualified employees, including women and people of color, welcoming outside knowledge and embracing continuous learning.