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BART labor negotiations stall, state mediator to step in next week
BART has asked a state mediator to step in and help the stalled labor talks between the Bay Area transit agency and its five unions. The mediator, which unions have welcomed as well, is scheduled to start next week. The current labor contract expires on June 30.
Labor contracts at BART have a troubled history. Four years ago, negotiations led to a near strike and left the union employees without a raise after talks dragged on for months. But the unions say this time, they’re not backing down. They proposed a three-year deal with a five percent annual raise that’s adjusted for inflation. That adds up to a 23 percent pay bump over the next three years. Union representatives point to a budget surplus and record ridership, saying the workers deserve some of the benefits.
Antonette Bryant is the president of BART’s second biggest union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, representing train operators and station agents. At a public meeting last month, she urged the BART Board of Directors to look for funding somewhere besides the workers and riders.
“We are operating at a deficit. The workers, not BART,” she says.
But BART officials say the aging system needs billions of dollars over the next decade to fund maintenance projects, like replacing old train cars. To close that gap, BART wants union employees to start contributing to their pensions – something the unions fiercely oppose. BART also wants to reform some of its work rules, like one that allows employees to get overtime while working fewer than 40 hours in a week.
“There’s no question that our workers are highly skilled and dedicated,” says BART General Manager Grace Crunican in a press release. “But they’ve got to take a greater stake in the financial future of BART.”
The union employees will also be getting a one percent raise on July 1 for meeting goals set out in the last contract, such as increased ridership and sales tax revenue. But both union and BART officials say that raise has no impact on the current negotiations.