Met Council, union meet again to discuss bus strike

Britt Johnsen

Transit strike negotiations took place on Wednesday night and more will take place Monday, officials said.

Though they reached no agreement, all parties said they made progress.

Talks included Gov. Tim Pawlenty at the request of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 President Ron Lloyd. Daniel Wolter, communications director at Pawlenty’s office, said this was the first request to meet with them.

“There was no point meeting with them unless they were willing and ready to move beyond public relations rhetoric and on to serious discussions,” Wolter wrote in an e-mail. “We all want to bring the strike to an end and hopefully we’re on our way to doing that.”

The union, which represents 2,150 Metro Transit workers, and Metropolitan Council, which oversees Metro Transit, talked with Pawlenty on Wednesday from 5 p.m. to midnight.

This was the second meeting since union members walked off the job 37 days ago. Negotiation disagreements revolve around health-care issues.

Officials said although the talks were productive, each party remains adamant about its stance.

“I’d like to think (the union has) an increased appreciation for the resource constraints we’re operating under,” said Peter Bell, Met Council chairman.

Lloyd said the fact talks lasted seven hours shows progress.

“It’s good that we’re talking,” Lloyd said. “We want to continue those talks. We’re hoping to get a finished product.”

Officials could not be specific about negotiation details. Previous talks have been in St. Paul at the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services.

But officials said they will not be releasing the time or place of further negotiations. Bell said media expectations have been too high.

“We’re going to not announce the locations, probably not even the times,” Bell said. “We’re going to tell you that they’re happening. It changes the dynamics if there’s a media spotlight.”