Officials with the District Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) expressed "disappointment and frustration" late Wednesday night when city negotiators left the bargaining table with no settlement in place.
The two sides met in mediation for over 11 hours Wednesday, trying to hammer out an agreement that would avert a scheduled strike by 1,800 general employees of the City of Portland. ╩The unions are set to walk out at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, October 22, unless a settlement is reached on a new contract.
"The city's action was very disappointing," said Don Loving, Public Affairs Director for Oregon AFSCME and a spokesperson for the DCTU. ╩"It was only about 9:00 p.m. when the city said it was going home. ╩We were ready to spend the night if necessary. ╩We've always said that we don't want to strike; a strike is always a last option. ╩We were in the midst of exchanging proposals and making some progress. ╩Incremental progress, to be sure, but progress nonetheless.
"It's just very disappointing and frustrating that the city chose to walk away."
Loving said the issue of health care insurance costs continues to be the major sticking point.
"We made the city an offer that would have saved them millions of dollars each year on health insurance," said Loving. ╩"Not only wasn't that enough, they decided to go home and stop talking. ╩We want to reach a settlement, but it takes both sides compromising to do so."
Loving said the two sides will go back into another mediation session on Friday. ╩In the interim, he said the union has no choice but to prepare for an October 22 walkout.
"The city is forcing our hand here," he said. ╩"While we continue to pledge to do everything possible to negotiate a settlement, we must at the same time prepare for the possibility of a strike come Monday.
"We will go to mediation Friday prepared to stay as long as it takes. ╩We'll bring cots, sleeping bags, whatever it takes. ╩We hope the city will make the same commitment."