Metro employees to get pay raise


(Luz Lazo – The Washington Post)

Metro employees are expected to get an 11.4 percent pay raise over four years as part of a new contract. Employees also will be required to pay into their pension, which is currently fully funded by the transit agency.

The new four-year contract for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, Metro’s largest union, comes after months of negotiations. The union represents roughly 10,000 employees and its previous contract expired in June 2012.

The contract still must be approved by the union’s membership, its board and Metro’s board of directors.

Under the proposed new deal, most employees would receive a 3 percent raise in 2013, a 4 percent pay raise in 2014 and another 4 percent raise in 2015, according to a summary of the tentative contract agreement that was obtained by the Washington Post.

Both the union and Metro’s management have been reluctant to say much about the contract until their respective groups approve it.

Metro’s board meets at the end of July and does not meet in August. Metro officials said they did not immediately know when the board was likely to take up discussion of the new contract.

“We are not commenting on this matter until Local 689 members have had an opportunity to review the proposed agreement,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel wrote in an e-mail.

Union leaders are holding an informational meeting Saturday at their headquarters in Forestville and the union’s membership is expected to vote on whether to ratify the contract July 23.

For employees, one of the biggest shifts will be having to pay into their pension starting next year. Metro now fully funds the pensions of employees in Local 689.

It is the second time in the last few years that Metro employees have seen a pay raise — despite Metro management and the board saying they would not support a hike in this round of contract negotiations.

Metro’s management has said that rising labor costs is one of the agency’s largest expenses.

In fiscal 2013, Metro officials said the cost of the pension program was projected to rise 34 percent to $150 million. The rise in pension costs, officials had said, was due in large part to changes in the financial markets that required the agency to put more money into pensions.

In the previous round of contract negotiations, the two sides ended up in a long arbitration. Ultimately, Metro employees received retroactive pay increase of a 9 percent in 3-percent increments for 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Another, smaller Metro union — the Office of Professional Employees International Local 2 — has worked for five years without a contract, leaders there said. The union has about 850 Metro employees who work in engineering, central control of the rail line, contract administration and other administrative-type positions.

The sticking points include such items as pay, pensions and medical benefits, according to Eric Starin, third vice president for Local 2 and chief steward for the Metro shop of Local 2.

“It’s been frustrating,” Starin said of the ongoing negotiations. Their case went to an arbitrator and is now awaiting an opinion from a federal judge, he said.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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Dana Hedgpeth | July 16, 2013