Amid union talks, Metro GM says he’s listening to employees

WASHINGTON – Though the head of Metro’s largest union has described contract talks as stalled and has questioned whether Metro management is listening to workers, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is telling workers that he’s listening to them.

He also said at least one worker suggested a preference for pay cuts rather than job cuts.

“I want to encourage every employee to recommend budget efficiencies,” Wiedefeld said in a memo to employees on Friday.

“I have received many comments and emails already,”  the memo continues. “For example, one management employee suggested reducing call center service hours to reduce expenses, while a front line employee recommended across the board wage reductions in place of personnel cuts,” it continued.

On Friday, Metro had finished notifying the 101 employees who were losing their jobs, although some of those workers could apply for vacant positions within the agency.

Wiedefeld’s memo said Metro already had cut a total of 500 positions over the past few months. Many of those positions were vacant. Wiedefeld wants 200 more position cuts by next July. He promised to consider eliminating vacant positions before laying people off.

Three hundred more jobs could go if the Metro board of directors approves proposed cuts to train frequencies, bus routes and service hours.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, Metro’s largest union, has called Wiedefeld’s budget proposal one that would trigger a “death spiral” of declining ridership and service.

Jackie Jeter, president of the ATU Local 689, said that she would not accept Metro’s proposals to cut benefits and jobs and that the union would do whatever it has to in order to get a better deal.

The union’s contract expired at the end of June; neither side expects a deal for at a few more months — possibly longer.

In recent weeks, the union has become more vocal. Although the two sides are still meeting, Jeter described negotiations as “stalled.”

If there is no agreement, talks could move to binding arbitration.

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