BART to resume talks with unions

July 17, 2009 7:51:04 PM PDT
Negotiators for BART management and its 2,800-plus union workers will return to the bargaining table on Monday after the transit agency's two largest unions voted against management's contract offer by overwhelming margins.

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Members of the BART chapter of Local 1021 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 1,400 mechanics, custodians, safety inspectors and clerical employees, voted against the proposal on Thursday by a margin of 98.5 percent to 1.5 percent. About 70 percent of the union's members participated in the vote.

The rejection by SEIU Local 1021 followed a unanimous vote against the contract offer Tuesday by BART's second-largest union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents about 900 train operators, station agents and power workers.

ATU Local 1555 President Jesse Hunt said about three-quarters of his members participated in the vote and all of those who voted cast "no" votes.

Jean Hamilton, the president of BART's third-largest union, Local 3993 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 200 middle managers, said she hasn't scheduled a vote for her members because she needs to get more information from management.

Members of ATU Local 1555, SEIU Local 1021 and AFSCME Local 3993 all voted overwhelmingly last month to approve a strike if a settlement isn't reached on a new contract. However, union leaders haven't yet called for a strike and say they want to continue negotiations with management.

State mediators, who entered the talks on June 26, will rejoin the process on Monday.

There are two small unions that represent BART police officers and managers but they're barred from going on strike. They haven't voted yet because they want more details on management's offer, according to BART spokesman Linton Johnson.

SEIU spokesman Carlos Rivera said his union plans to return to the bargaining table on Monday.

Johnson and Hunt engaged in a war of words over ATU Local 1555's bargaining plans.

Johnson said this morning that management was told that ATU Local 1555 wouldn't return to the bargaining table until Wednesday because of a dispute over pay for 44 of its members who are on its bargaining team.

Johnson said BART paid the union negotiators, who are on leave from their regular jobs, full-time wages from the time bargaining began on April 1 until the contract expired on July 9 but is now only paying the negotiators on the days that contract talks take place.

He said some of the union's members don't want to bargain on Mondays or Tuesdays because those are their regular days off and they only want to negotiate on their normal workdays.

But Hunt said Johnson's information is "absolutely incorrect" and said his union's bargaining team will return to the table at 10 a.m. Monday.

However, Hunt said he and his team "have some concerns and issues" that need to be worked out concerning the schedule for future bargaining sessions.

Johnson said at the end of the day, "We were told initially that they (ATU Local 1555) wouldn't be there on Monday" and he thinks that inquiries by reporters pressured the union to return to the table on Monday instead of waiting until Wednesday.

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