Union leadership feels betrayed by layoffs

November 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A BART strike was avoided during contentious contract negotiations last summer. There were great efforts on all sides to come to the table, but now some union leaders feel betrayed by layoffs that took place last month.

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The next contract negotiation is four years from now and right now it appears that strike that was avoided will be back on the table.

The SEIU president along with BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger announced a deal in August to avoid a BART strike.

"We've managed to have no job cuts and we've managed to have no salary cuts," said SEIU Local 1021 President Lisa Isler on July, 31, 2009.

However, five temporary SEIU janitorial workers were laid off on October 18th and more layoffs are expected.

Dugger says temp workers are not covered in the contract and that she and other negotiators repeatedly informed the unions that they could not guarantee there would never be layoffs due to budget problems.

Still, the union leadership feels betrayed.

"We have to have some sort of trust so that we can work together, and I'm just not feeling the love," said SEIU Vice President Harry Gordon.

SEIU says neither they nor the temp workers were given any warning and neither was the BART Board. They found out from the union at a board meeting.

"Well excuse me Madame General Manager, why didn't you even tell us? The flippant remark was, 'It's not customary for me to tell the board when I lay off temporary workers.' Well this year it is customary to tell us everything that could be contentious," said BART Board member Lynette Sweet.

Sweet says the temp layoffs are a slap in the face to SEIU -- the only union to really sell an unappealing contract to the membership.

"It may not have been a violation of the actual wording of the contract, but it's certainly a violation of the spirit that we were working in," she said.

BART has four years to repair the damage.

"Well I'm hoping our unions will stay to the guns and walk out," said SEIU BART worker Matthew Marvel.

Sweet wants Dugger out.

"Business as usual at BART needs to stop, and there needs to be this open look, this transparency about what we are doing. We are a public agency and that needs to be understood. This cloak and dagger, need to know...hell no, it's over," she said.

Dugger was not available to talk ABC7, but after we called she issued a memo to the board saying from now on she will inform them when part-timer lay-offs are budget related, but not for routine hiring and separations.

Dugger's memo also said she notified the union of the layoffs, and the union disputes that.

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