SOUTH ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - One of Metro's biggest unions moved a step closer to a strike Monday night.
Members cast their votes to authorize union leaders to pursue a strike, if needed.
Metro workers appear to authorize strike. Final vote tomorrow.
— Jeff Bernthal (@JeffBernthal) June 11, 2013
Metro union members in St. Louis include bus drivers, light rail operators, maintenance and clerical workers among others.
Metro and its union have been negotiating for two and a half years.
A big sticking point is over Metro wanting members to move from pensions to a 401k.
A metro spokesperson says they are monitoring the situation and service will not be disrupted during this process.
Controversy could be coming between the Metro transit agency and some of its employees.Members of Metro`s main union are set to take a vote today which could eventually result in a strike.
We`re talking about the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788.
The president of Local 788, Mike Breihan, says two meetings will take place at the union hall on South Broadway in Soulard Monday and Monday night where members will take part in a strike vote.
If approved, the vote would allow the union to pursue a strike against Metro.
Breihan says contract negotiations with metro have been ongoing for two and a half years and talks broke down Friday with a mediator.
Breihan says the biggest issues for the union are pension benefits and health care costs.
He also tells us union members haven`t had a raise since 2008 but there may be some movement there if the union agrees to Metro`s proposal.
But union members have problems with that plan.
Breihan says Metro`s proposal eliminates pensions and replaces them with 401ks... and also raises health care costs for union members.
The Amalgamated Transit Union or 'ATU' represents some 1500 Metro workers from drivers to mechanics to clerical staff.
Breihan says there is no definitive date on when a strike would start if the vote is approved.
But he tells us it would not happen before the end of June when the mediator comes back with a decision.
We`re told the mediator decision is not binding.
Metro`s CEO John Nations told us he was stunned by the strike vote.
He says the two sides have been engaged in arbitration that the union wanted and that process is ongoing.
He says every other employee group at Metro has already agreed to drop the pension plan and go a 401K and the ATU has to do the same thing.
Nations says one of those groups is 'Call-A-Ride' which is a segment of the ATU.
Nations says the pension system is part of an outdated business model and is a recipe for financial disaster for Metro.
It`s a similar situation with health care- Nations says reforms there have to be made as well to make the system more financially viable for Metro`s future.
Nations says he is very concerned about the possibility of a strike and hopes the two sides can come to an agreement.