BART haggles over union work rules

June 25, 2009 6:42:51 PM PDT
The public relations battle between BART management and the unions is intensifying with both sides making an issue of who gets paid what.

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Salaries are a sticking point to an extent, but a larger issue for some of the unions may be what's known as work rules.

Under the current contract, it takes two BART employees to change a seat cushion. A utility worker unfastens the snaps, but only a journeyman mechanic can touch the screws on the seat back. That's just one example of a work rule BART management wants to change.

"We're just looking for some inefficient work rules, such as the seat cushion," said BART's chief spokesperson Linton Johnson.

Another rule requires train operators take a 10 minute break at the end of a run, even if it's just five minutes to the San Francisco airport. Jesse Hunt is president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

"Before the shuttle service was ever put into play, I approached district management about changing that rule. I thought he we had an agreement worked out and someone higher in management pulled it off the table," said ATU president Jesse Hunt.

BART pays its train operators $34.32 per hour, compared with $30.94 in Washington D.C., $21.68 in Los Angeles and $20.63 in New York.

"Traditionally, BART has been one of the higher paid systems in the nation. But at the same time, we're in the highest priced area to live," said Rod Diridon from the Mineta Transportation Institute.

BART management wants to freeze salaries and cut $100 million in employee benefits.

Right now, the district pays a maximum retiree health benefit of $1,868 per month, compared with $1,359 by San Francisco's Muni and $527 by Santa Clara's VTA.

"I think every day the BART news has come out with a different number, but what they aren't clearly saying is what the average manager, executive make," said AFSCME Union President Jean Hamilton.

In 2008 the gross pay for General Manager Dorothy Dugger was $335,000. BART's general counsel makes $252,000 and BART Police Chief Gary Gee makes $201,000.

"I think it's interesting that the general manager here at BART makes more than the governor of California," said Hunt.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's salary is $212,000 per year, but he donates that back to the state. As for BART's management they are asking union employees to accept a four-year wage freeze and says that they are willing to do the same.

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