Bus strike set for Thursday

Britt Johnsen

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 set a strike date Tuesday for 2 a.m on March 4.

“We did not want to get to this point,” union President Ronald Lloyd said. “We wanted a contract.”

After more than 15 hours of negotiating from Monday morning until 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, the union and Metropolitan Council did not reach an agreement, Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons said.

The core issues of their disagreements revolve around health care and wages. The union and the council have met 11 times since May, held 15 mediation sessions and voted on two final offers.

The union said it is willing to discuss arbitration or an extension of the current contract. Both are issues Met Council rejected, Lloyd said.

Met Council Chairman Peter Bell said there will be no more amendments to its offer and he expects no agreement to take place.

“When I said that our last offer was our last, best and final offer, I meant that it was our last, best and final offer,” he said.

Metro Transit currently serves approximately 220,000 people per weekday, 72,600 of whom have cars. A strike would impact parking at the University, officials said.

Lori Ann Vicich, marketing manager for Parking and Transportation Services, said carpool lots will open to U-Pass and Metropass users Thursday morning.

The lots include the fairgrounds lot on the St. Paul campus and the Buckeye lot on Huron Boulevard.

Because there are 14,000 U-Pass users and 1,500 Metropass users, Vicich said, there will be special deals for those customers.

The U-Pass and Metropass holders can park in appropriate lots for the carpool rate – $1.75 for the day – even if they are alone.

The West Bank Office Building Ramp and the East River Road Garage will also be opened. They will charge a $5-per-day flat rate.

Deals for cardholders are for members of the University only, Vicich said.

“The impact here is bigger and more obvious than any other single place,” she said.

Though neither party could speculate on how long a strike might last, Gibbons said the last Metro Transit strike, in 1995, lasted 21 days.

John Budd, human resources and industrial relations professor in the Carlson School of Management, said if a strike occurs, he predicts it could last approximately two weeks. He said that is typical for strikes.

“Both sides think they have the correct (position),” he said. “It takes time to weaken positions and soften people up.”

If there is a strike, people would see the immediate effects of transportation and parking obstacles, Budd said.

“The difficulty about this strike compared to lots of others is, even if they don’t take the bus, they are likely to be

seriously impacted,” he said. “Everyone else will be competing for parking spaces and space on the highways. Everybody will be affected.”

Gibbons said he is worried a decrease in riders might follow a strike. He said Metro Transit lost approximately 3.5 percent of its riders in 1995. He also said it took a year to gain back the number of prestrike riders.

“The bigger question which remains to be seen is: ‘What’s the future of transit?’ ” Budd said.