BART, unions closer to agreement

July 29, 2009 11:50:20 PM PDT
BART management and its unions say it is going to be another late night at the negotiating table, but the threat of a strike appears to be fading. At least one union says it's prepared to make sacrifices.

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After 120 days of negotiating, BART's largest union, Service Employees International Union, says they are close to agreeing on a deal. But they say it will include "drastic changes" to employee benefits and work rules.

"Some of the work rules are old, without a doubt; they're 15, 20 years old and some of them are still in place and they're not efficient," SEIU chief negotiator Larry Gerber said.

But there will likely be caps on medical benefits and the time it takes to qualify for retiree benefits will triple to 15 years.

Meanwhile, Amalgamated Transit Union, the union which represents the train operators and station agents says it finally got management to consider the union's cost saving plan.

"Management still seems reluctant on the process, but they're no longer saying it's illegal or it can't be done," ATU President Jesse Hunt said.

Bart is asking for $100 million in savings from the unions to help close a $310 million, four year deficit.

And while SEIU negotiators appear ready to accept a proposal, BART says all of the unions have to be on board.

"We have to have a deal with all of our unions or we don't have a deal, so one could be as close as right here and one be this far away, but if we don't have a deal, we don't have a deal," BART chief spokesperson Linton Johnson said.

Off camera, two union negotiators told ABC7 they think they will have a proposal for union to vote on by Friday. The question is, will it be something the union members are willing to accept?

Late Wednesday, a source inside BART says that if the negotiators do not accept the conditions, BART's board of directors will convene and impose terms and conditions of employment on them.

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