Metro board approves new union contract

(Michael S. Williamson - The Washington Post)
(Michael S. Williamson – The Washington Post)

Metro’s board of directors unanimously approved Thursday a new, four-year contract for its employees that includes an 11.4 percent pay hike over several years.

The move comes after the membership of Metro’s largest employee union — Local 689 — ratified the contract on Tuesday.

The new deal calls for an 11.4 percent pay raise over the next four years. It also calls for employees to pay into their pensions, which are now fully funded by the transit agency.

Employees will receive a 3 percent raise in 2013, a 4 percent pay raise in 2014 and another 4 percent raise in 2015. Employees will also be required to pay into their pension, which is currently fully funded by the transit agency. It is the first time in 30 years that employees will pay into their pension, Metro officials said.

Metro board chairman Tom Downs said “neither party got a complete package” of what they wanted. He called the deal a “series of compromises.” He said having employees pay into their rising pension costs makes them “partners” with the transit agency, and said that while there are no pay increases in the first year of the contract, the other pay raises are “gradual” and “keep pace with inflation.”

Downs said the new contract “requires no new monies to fund it in the first two years of the agreement.”

The union deal comes after Metro’s board and management have spent months in negotiations after the previous contract expired in June 2012.

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

Metro’s management has said that rising labor costs is one of its largest expenses. In fiscal 2013, Metro’s pension program was projected to rise 34 percent to $150 million. The rise in pension costs was due in large part to changes in the financial markets that required Metro 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 a retroactive pay increase of 9 percent in 3-percent increments for 2009, 2010 and 2011.

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Robert Thomson · July 25, 2013