Bay Area Traffic

BART board votes to approve contract if provision removed

Thursday, November 21, 2013
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BART directors voted 8-1 Thursday to approve a tentative contract agreement with its two largest unions -- but without a controversial clause that they say was included by accident.

The issue now goes back to the unions, Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, to consider whether they will support the contract without that clause.

The board's vote comes less than a week after it urged BART management to return to the bargaining table with the unions after reaching a tentative agreement last month to settle a months-long labor dispute that led to two strikes. It is unclear is what will follow if the board rejects the deal, leading to speculation of a possible third strike.

BART claims that it did not agree to a Family Medical Leave Act provision in the deal that would give workers six weeks of paid annual leave to care for sick family members. The transit agency said the provision could cost $44 million over four years if one-third of union workers take six-week leaves each year.

Section 4.8 is the sticking point that could leave you stranded in another BART strike. The BART Board of Directors wanted to know how exactly the signature of their chief negotiator, Thomas Hock, got on that provision. He told the Contra Costa Times section 4.8 was not part of the last, best, final offer that he offered to the unions back in October. The board voted today to ratify the contract but negotiations are not over.

"If SEIU or ATU radify such agreements, minus section 4.8, she may execute them on behalf of the district," said BART Secretary Kenneth Duron.

That motion directs BART General Manager Grace Crunican to get the unions do delete section 4.8 -- paid family leave. One board member said on Thursday that it was mistakenly included.

"The district does have FMLA. In fact, employees have enjoyed it because it's a part of the federal law, so it does exist. The difference is that we have never paid six weeks for it," said BART board member Gail Murray.

Meanwhile, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 dispute BART's estimates, said they bargained in good faith, the deal they signed last month is valid, and they are not inclined to resume negotiations.

"It is our expectation that the Board of Directors will honor the agreement that their chief negotiator, assistant manager and labor relations manager made with the unions," SEIU 1021 and ATU 1555 said in a joint statement Wednesday evening. "We expect the Board to meet their responsibility to the workers and to the riders and approve this contract."

Separately, ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant criticized BART and said the agency was inflating the potential cost of the new provision. She said the provision, which would provide paid leave if an employee is needed to care for a seriously ill immediate family member, would cost about $1.4 million a year.

"A deal is a deal," Bryant said Tuesday. "BART's Board of Directors needs to live up to their word."

If the board rejects this contract, then the board members will discuss what to do next.

We asked riders to tell us what they thought of this situation.

"Dear BART, please let's settle this whole contract issue we've had enough of this," said Castro Valley resident Wesley Yee.

Many BART riders don't care anymore who gets what in the contract just that it's done. They can't take any more uncertainty.

"BART management and the unions need to get their stuff together because the public has already been through this with two strikes now and I don't think it's fair for us to go through that again," said Oakland resident Audrey Granger.

Some do have an opinion about what is finally agreed to.

"Dear BART please let the employees have their family leave. They need it," said San Francisco resident Nancy Rodriguez.

"I think you guys should just man up and approve what you had already agreed to," said San Rafael resident Tony Christopher.

And all are incredulous that an important public agency could bungle the contract details after such a hard fought negotiation.

"Dear BART I do commute via casual carpool or BART so it impacts me either way. I am just surprised with all the lawyers involved and everybody negotiating, you can't even figure out what you're doing," said Oakland resident Paul Schroeder.

"It's hard for me to believe they missed it. I think maybe they did read the papers, maybe it's not entirely the truth," said Marin County resident Olga Rowland.

If you would like to weigh in on the conversation send us your comments using #DearBART on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Bay City News and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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BART strike, BART, unions, strike, traffic, transportation, SEIU, ATU, bay area traffic
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