SF mayor announces tentative deal with Muni

May 27, 2010 7:13:38 PM PDT
The largest service cuts in the history of San Francisco's public transit system could soon be rolled back. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced a tentative deal with drivers that could mean more than half the cuts would be restored by this fall.

This is the second package of concessions put before Muni operators as the city struggles to close a historic budget deficit. The first one was approved by union leaders back in February, only to be rejected by the rank and file. Now another tentative deal has been hammered out.

After months of what one labor leader calls "strained conversations," the last holdout, the union representing Muni workers have apparently agreed to concessions.

"It's founded on the principal as we've often discussed as shared sacrifice," said union negotiator Bob Muscat.

The 2,000 Muni operators are scheduled to receive a $9 million pay hike in July and about the same the next year. They'll still get those raises, but will go along with other give-backs.

"That's not as clean as just saying, 'Here's the wage, were going to give it back.' There are other ways of reaching that dollar figure," said Newsom.

"If we really are in a deficit, why not do that? We'd be willing to do that," said Muni driver Rey De La Vega.

Sources say the concessions included giving up the current practice of being paid overtime when they don't work more than 40 hours a week. In all about $19 million will be saved. And if city lawmakers agree to release another $7 million on hold, the drastic service cuts Muni began earlier this month, could be rescinded.

"Our plan is by September 4 to restore about 55 percent of our 10 percent service cut. We will then ramp up service over the course of the year, so that by July 1, 2011, we'll be back to the same service levels that we were a few months ago," said Muni Chief Nat Ford.

Roughly 700,000 passengers ride the system every day and there was mounting pressure from the public and politicians.

"I think it was a campaign from City Hall to try to get us to do this or forced us to do this," said Muni driver Tony Gonzalez.

Part of that campaign was Supervisor Sean Elsbernd who is gathering signatures to put a measure on the November ballot that would end guarantees that mandate Muni operators shall be at least the second highest paid in the nation. This tentative deal will not end the petition drive.

"Keep in mind this deal is only for the next two years. What I'm looking at is the next 20 years," said Elsbernd.

Elsbernd also has a wait and see attitude about drivers actually approving this latest contract deal. But the mayor says he's confident because in his words, "this is a very different climate" from a few months ago.


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