If you're still trying to understand what exactly BART and its unions are fighting over, you're not alone. Obviously, the fight is over compensation, but many of us are unclear as to what each party is really asking of the other. Even bargaining representatives on both sides are having a hard time agreeing on the factual differences between their own proposals. Last Wednesday, union and management teams sat down just to clarify some of their financial assumptions — assumptions that have led to multimillion-dollar disagreements over what each side is truly proposing.
So what do the unions want? What does BART want? And why can't they seem to agree on something in the middle?
Quite simply, it's the difference between a pay raise and a pay cut. From the very beginning, the unions have demanded a pay increase while BART managers have tried to impose what amounts to a cut in take home pay in order to keep more cash in the system's coffers. While both sides have moved closer toward a middle ground, they still remain far apart.
To truly understand where each side is, it's important to fully analyze the proposals, not only in terms of how they'll affect wages, but also how they'll impact workers' retirement and health-care costs.
Let's start with wages. Throughout the summer, we heard from BART management and the mainstream press that unions were demanding an "unreasonable" 21-percent pay hike over three years, while BART was offering a more realistic 10-percent increase in wages over four years. These two numbers — 21 versus 10 — have dominated the debate so far. "We've heard from our employees that they want to see an increase in take home pay in each of the four years, and we have an offer on the table that will do that for them," said BART president Tom Radulovich at a recent press conference, referring to the agency's 10-percent wage increase proposal.
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