East Bay News

ATU votes down BART's proposal

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
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On Tuesday night members of BART's second largest union, which includes train operators, voted down the latest offer from management. Members left no doubt about where they stand.

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Union leaders say 76 percent of its members voted and 100 percent of them turned it down. Meanwhile, BART's board president is applauding the governor's refusal to ask for a 60-day cooling off period.

BART's management says the governor's refusal to ask for a 60-day cooling-off period prevents a delay in contract talks that would increase BART's deficit, now estimated at $310 million.

"Which is a good thing in our opinion because of the fact that the longer this takes, the more difficult to achieve the savings that we need," says BART chief spokesperson Linton Johnson.

Many of the Amalgamated Transit Union's 900 train operators and station agents were less than thrilled as they left union headquarters after voting. Union leaders say the proposal is essentially the same old thing. BART management has been asking them to accept $100 million in concessions. The union says no middle ground has been reached.

"But far more the concern is why the district is not considering our $760 million in savings that we put on the table," says ATU president Jesse Hunt.

Essentially the four-year contract proposal calls for a wage freeze, except for a .75 increase in the final year. Union members also lose six vacation days, but they get lifetime medical coverage at $85 a month, and full pension; BART pays both the employer and employee's share.

"Do the union members really understand this offer? Do they know what's really in it? Do they know what our customers are going through, as compared to what they're getting offered?" asks Johnson.

The largest union, SEIU, will vote on Thursday. If it fails, there's another round of mediation before the strike signs are prepared, but a required 72-hour notice to BART riders that a strike is imminent, no longer exists.

"What I can say is that if that becomes necessary there will be a reasonable notice to the public," says Hunt.

The ATU's president was unclear of exactly how much reasonable notice it would give the public.

Again, 100 percent of the union voted the proposal down, and the threat of a strike is building up steam once again.

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