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BART negotiations hit stumbling block

Monday, July 27, 2009
BART, strike, union, contract, layoffs, Bay Area, San Francisco, SEIU BART train BART Union talks  BART

BART management claims its negotiations with its unions for a new contract have hit a stumbling block, even as the talks themselves continue.

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After a weekend filled with some promise, negotiations to avoid a BART strike have hit a snag, according to BART chief spokesman Linton Johnson.

"We're at the 116th day of bargaining and we're still at this issue," Johnson said.

BART claims the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents 900 train operators and station agents refuses to budge on work rules, like the one that allows union members to conduct union business on BART's time.

"We have the equivalent of 15 people, every single day, out there working for the unions; that accounts for about 24,000 hours on the public dime spent working for the unions, instead of serving the public," Johnson said.

"Unfortunately, management's not really good at following the contract, so the amount of time that we spend writing grievances, taking issues to arbitration and representing our members in disciplinary hearings and things like that, is what that time is," ATU President Jesse Hunt said.

Another work rule prohibits BART from moving station agents more than five stations from their assigned location in a given week.

BART management wants to cut $100 million from its union contracts to help reduce a projected $310 million deficit.

"We know we've done everything we can," Hunt said.

Still, three BART unions have already voted to authorize a strike -- if it comes to that.

BART management has set its own Thursday deadline for the parties to reach an agreement, but call it an internal goal with no word as to what would happen if the deadline is not met.

"Every day of delay, we're just bleeding money at this point," Johnson said. "It's $70,000 a day to carry this deficit and we've got to put an end to this."

Despite what BART is saying, union leaders told ABC7 they feel like they are making good progress.

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