A METRO Green Line train at U.S. Bank Stadium Station. Unionized transit workers are planning to strike during the Super Bowl if they can't reach a contract agreement with the Metropolitan Council. File photo

A METRO Green Line train at U.S. Bank Stadium Station. Unionized transit workers are planning to strike during the Super Bowl if they can't reach a contract agreement with the Metropolitan Council. File photo

Metro Transit gives ‘final’ contract offer to union

Updated: December 15, 2017 - 4:04 pm

Transit workers have authorized a strike that could disrupt the Super Bowl

Aiming to avert a strike during the Super Bowl, a Metropolitan Council spokesperson said the agency presented its “last, best and final” contract offer to the union representing 2,500 Metro Transit employees.

According to the Met Council, the agency’s final offer was for a three-year contract that includes 2.5 percent wage increases in each of the three years. It also proposes a pilot project to test driver safety barriers in buses.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 and the Met Council had been in state-mediated negotiations since the union’s previous contract expired at the end of July. Union members overwhelmingly rejected Met Council’s previous contract offer in November and authorized a strike that would begin Jan. 26, near the start of the festivities leading up to Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“They voted down our last proposal in November, and we really took that seriously,” said Met Council Communications Director Kate Brickman. “We brought that back to our side and we said we really need to be responsive to what they’re saying.”

Local 1005 President Mark Lawson said the union’s executive board would meet Thursday to review the offer and potentially set a vote. Lawson declined to comment any further on the contract offer until then.

If the contract is approved, the union would be the only Met Council bargaining unit with a three-year contract. Other contracts are all for two-year periods, Brickman said.

Bus driver safety was a key issue for the union, and drivers who had experienced assaults were pushing the union to add new safety barriers. The proposed pilot project would begin in December with the installation of the barriers on 21 busses, according to a summary of the contract offer provided by Met Council. Brickman said the plan was to use a clear plastic barrier product already available on the market.

The plan calls for the formation of a committee to evaluate the pilot. It would include bus operators, technicians, transit police and Metro Transit managers.

The new contract offer also includes an increase to transit vehicle technicians’ annual tool allowance. Lawson had previously explained that both the union and Metro Transit agreed it was time to bring the technicians’ required tool list up to date — mainly to keep pace with changing technology — but the union asked an increase in the allowance to offset a jump in out-of-pocket expenses for techs. Met Council’s offer includes a $1,500 one-time payment for one particular class of technicians facing the highest costs.

Met Council’s offer also includes a change in the minimum amount of sick leave full-time union employees can take. They are currently required to take sick leave in at least four-hour increments, but the new contract would allow full-time union employees to take sick leave in two-hour increments.