Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Declares Impasse in Mechanics Union Negotiations
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials on Monday stopped negotiations with striking unionized mechanics, estimating that the two sides were "$37 million apart on health benefits and $98 million apart overall," the Los Angeles Times reports (Streeter, Los Angeles Times, 10/28). The mechanics, who are members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, had been working without a contract for more than a year before going on strike on Oct. 14. Talks resumed this month after a more than two-month delay in negotiations. However, negotiations broke down earlier in October over MTA's contribution to the union's health plan and the plan's management. MTA contributes about $1.4 million each month to the mechanics' health care fund, and the union is responsible for administering members' insurance policies. However, union leaders say health care costs have risen to about $1.9 million a month over the last year because of health insurance premium increases. The fund is now insolvent (California Healthline, 10/21).
In declaring an impasse, Roger Snoble, chief executive of MTA, said, "Virtually no progress has been made on any substantial issues," adding that the MTA board of directors had instructed him to declare an impasse and issue a "last, best and final offer" to the mechanics on Tuesday. Snoble said the new proposal being offered Tuesday will "not differ much" from an offer made by MTA last week. Under that proposal, the agency offered a 5% wage increase over the nearly four-year contract, a payment of up to $4.7 million to make the fund solvent and a monthly increase in MTA's contribution to the fund from $1.4 million to $1.9 million. The union, which has not made its demands public, has said the offer is "not enough to protect the fund from again being gutted by cost increases," the Times reports. Snoble said that "huge differences" remain between the two sides and that although he hopes union members will be allowed to vote on the final MTA offer on Tuesday, he does not expect the strike to end "for several weeks," the Times reports.
Neil Silver, president of the mechanics union, said that he was "stunned by the declaration of an impasse," according to the Times. Silver, who made an offer to MTA on pension issues on Saturday, the last time the two sides met, added, "My membership intends to stick this out because this is about their future, their health benefits today, tomorrow and forever." MTA legal chief Steve Carnevale said that the agency could impose the contract and restart services if Tuesday's offer is rejected. According to the Times, MTA's move to declare an impasse and make a final offer is intended to lay the "legal groundwork for hiring replacement workers." However, MTA has not yet considered whether to hire replacement workers, Carnevale said (Los Angeles Times, 10/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.