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TriMet's FY2014 budget concerns tied to union contract, health costs

The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon's (TriMet) financial future is tied to the agency's ability to reform its contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), according to General Manager Neil McFarlane.

While presenting a fiscal-year 2014 budget outlook to the agency's board last week, McFarlane reported that TriMet is facing financial hurdles and some uncertainty. But an arbitrator's recent decision to select management's proposal for the recently expired contract with ATU will provide some "breathing room," TriMet officials said in a statement posted on the agency's website.

McFarlane anticipates no service restoration or cuts in the FY2014 budget. However, the union is challenging the arbitration award, except for retroactive wage increases. The Oregon Employment Relations Board is expected to rule on the matter this spring. If the union's side prevails, the decision could result in additional service cuts.

"Our financial future and the future of transit in this region are directly tied to our ability to reform the contract," McFarlane said. "It's a choice between bringing health care benefits in line with the market and our peers, or face a future of continual service cuts to pay for these unsustainable benefits."

McFarlane's presentation is a prelude to the FY2014 budget that will be released in mid-March.

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