BART, unions remain far apart; Talks resume Sept. 17

September 5, 2013 5:46:07 PM PDT
The mandatory 60-day cooling off period for contract talks between BART management and union workers is going to end in just over a month on October 10. Talks are scheduled for next week, but both sides say they need the other to come to the table willing to negotiate seriously.

The clock is ticking and BART riders could be facing another strike next month. But even with that looming deadline, the next round of talks won't begin for two more weeks.

On Monday the unions used Labor Day to say that management was dragging its feet to the negotiation table and not offering a fair contract negotiation. It was the BART board's president's turn to do so on Thursday.

"That's ridiculous, they should've already been talking," Berkeley resident Leslie Simon said.

But they haven't been. BART management and its labor unions have been in a cooling off period since August 10 when California Governor Jerry Brown told the two to walk away for 60 days.

"A lot of the benefits we provide our employees are rising in costs," BART Board President Tom Radulovich said.

BART management says beyond growing employee costs like healthcare and pension, they need to replace parts of an aging infrastructure and invest in the transit agency's growth for future rider capacity needs. A message, they say, unions are ignoring.

"We need to see proposals that are reasonable, that the district can accept and that we can afford," Radulovich said.

Take a look at these numbers. BART management says the unions have yet to move below a 20 percent wage increase proposal over three years. Before the cooling off period, a proposal which includes a 10 percent raise for employees over four years was offered. They say the unions did not respond and haven't taken the offer to their members. Adding to the challenge, BART must come to terms with two unions.

"So you cannot respond or counter a proposal when you don't have the answers they indicated that they would give us," ATU 1555 President Atonette Bryant

Also up for debate is the length of the term of the contract. Management wants four years. The unions want 3.

"Every time they have negotiated with numbers to the media has been numbers that continue to put the workers economically behind after four years," SEIU 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez said.

ABC7 news has learned the two sides aren't scheduled to talk again until September 17, less than a month from their third strike deadline in October. A strike is something neither side says they want.

"It's really loss of pay," BART station agent Victor Hugo Martinez said. "Loss of pay, loss of time, we want to work."

Caught in the middle are riders like Simon. With limited mobility, she says she depends on BART for everything and a possible strike would be a serious hardship.

"They're holding 400,000 people hostage everyday they keep going on strike," she said.

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