Metro, largest union reach discipline agreement

WASHINGTON — Metro and its largest union have agreed to new discipline policies after a sweeping overhaul was tossed out by an arbitrator last year.

A copy of the agreement obtained by WTOP outlines a new discipline policy for workers to replace the so-called Disciplinary Guidelines Matrix that Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 had argued was too broad and imposed without enough input. Among examples, simple violations such as technical uniform violations could lead to employees getting fired.

The policy also addressed more serious issues such as safety violations and sleeping on the job.

The new arbitration finding that outlines the agreement says it is separate from ongoing contract negotiations, and that Metro maintains it is allowed to generally impose discipline policies as it sees fit.

A memo to Metro workers dated Monday says that the new discipline program will begin Feb. 12. It looks back at two years of violations for discipline, compared to three years in the original matrix policy. The memo says there are also ways for workers to earn “positive performance points.” Any worker who goes 180 days without a violation will get two points deducted from their total for the next 24 months.

Under the new system, workers who commit some of the most serious safety and operational violations will face a two-day suspension.

A second “level III” safety or operational violation would lead to being fired. Two “Level II” violations would lead to a five-day suspension, while a third would lead to being fired.

Level III violations include a collision or derailment on tracks used by passenger trains, moving a train without permission, locking a customer in a station as a station manager, reading while operating a bus or train and sleeping on duty in some cases.  A train operator sleeping on duty while operating a train is covered by a separate policy.

Level II violations include a minor collision with no injuries, discourteous language, ejection of passengers without notifying bus supervisors, giving a train permission to run a red signal without confirming that the switch ahead is locked in the right direction, failing to do a pre-trip inspection of a bus, or failing to complete a scheduled trip.

More basic violations such as uniform infractions would trigger written warnings before any suspension. Metro maintains the right to “consider mitigating and aggravating circumstances in determining the final discipline.”

The new agreement transfers all discipline records across any department. In the past, Metro had not allowed the records to transfer, which allowed some troubled bus operators to switch to the rail side or vice versa to avoid more serious discipline.

Individual workers who had challenged their discipline under the now-outdated policy will be handled on a “case-by-case basis, with the general understanding” that the level of discipline under the new policy is appropriate.

Workers retain the right to challenge discipline through a stepped process that can ultimately lead to an arbitration panel. The Metro Compact that set up the system has binding arbitration as a last resort for contract or worker disputes in exchange for avoiding worker strikes.

While the deal was shared with workers Tuesday, the arbitration decision is dated nearly two weeks ago.

This deal remains in effect until at least Jan. 27, 2019, after which it can be renegotiated.

ATU Local 689 represents a majority of Metro workers. The union’s contract expired at the end of June, and union leaders have become more vocal over the past year as contract negotiations have picked up.

Metro’s budget proposal, which includes fare hikes and service cuts, does not account for any potential raises that could be negotiated in a new contract.

The Metro Board is set to finalize any budget changes over the next few months.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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