RAYMOND — The Oct. 22 meeting between Pacific Transit System and Amalgamated Transit Union, mediated by the Washington State Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC), did not produce any immediate breakthroughs in the ongoing contract standoff.

Going into the meeting, a long list of contract provisions remained in dispute between Pacific Transit and the union representing its 18 drivers. Issues separating the parties include wages and the grievance process for resolving disputes over employee discipline.

Starting last October, the parties had 11 unmediated meetings about their contract, which expired at the beginning of this year. Mediation with PERC started Oct. 22. PERC also helped the parties reach their most recent contract.

Asked whether the sides are closer together, Pacific Transit manager Richard Evans replied, “It’s hard to say. Offers were put out there. But basically, we’re right where we were.”

Union head David Sharwark has said he will not comment publicly on negotiations.

The parties were set for three more meetings this week, with at least two of the meetings to include a PERC representative.

The parties listed 13 “issues in dispute” in their mediation request, jointly filed in July with the Public Employment Relations Commission. Neither side submitted proposals on these issues to PERC before the meeting.

The disputed provisions include the one governing the procedures for discipline, and another governing grievance process for appealing disciplinary decisions. The old contract makes discipline appealable to the director, Evans. A statement earlier this year to the Pacific Transit board, signed by most of Pacific Transit’s drivers but not officially endorsed by the union, objected to Evans’ role in deciding appeals. The drivers argued since he is the one imposing the discipline in the first place, he should not be deciding appeals.

However, the old contract allows further appeal to PERC for mediation, then a further appeal for binding arbitration by PERC or the American Arbitrators Association.

The union has asked for changes in the shop steward provision, which currently calls for one shop steward and one assistant to represent the bargaining unit.

Other disputed provisions include vacation time, which currently ranges from 12 to 30 days per year depending on length of service.

Aaron Mead is a sports writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or aaroncmead@gmail.com.

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