BART, unions still disagree on big issues of pay, benefits

October 2, 2013 7:00:13 PM PDT
Eight days and counting before a possible BART strike; if it happens, hundreds of thousands of commuters will have to scramble to get around.

Negotiations started at 11 a.m. Wednesday and wrapped up around 6 p.m.

BART's chief negotiator Thomas Hock tells me this has been one of the most difficult negotiations he's ever had. That's because he's dealing with two different unions who have to agree before they can agree together and come back to him with a proposal.

BART labor unions and management continue to disagree over several issues, including pay increases, benefits, safety, and even the length of the contract.

"We should be really serious about bargaining, our teams are," ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant said.

The unions want a three-year agreement, BART is asking for another four-year contract. Neither side seems willing to budge.

"I mean, if you want to paint me as the Boogie Man, I guess I'm the Boogie Man," Hock said.

He's negotiated more than 400 labor contracts over his career and says the economics of any agreement must be done as a package.

"You can't let yourself get picked apart by doing one little thing at a time without looking at the cost of the whole package," he said.

BART workers have put forward a new proposal. It calls for a lower wage increase proposal, calling for a 3.75 percent wage increase for the first two years of the contract and four percent in the third year.

BART has not commented publicly about the proposal.

"Nothing that's on the table right now is so insurmountable that a deal might not be able to be reached before the eleventh," UC Berkeley Professor Harley Shaiken said.

Prof. Shaiken, specializes in labor issues and says the contract details at play are more than minutia, but far less than a road block. There is still time for a deal to be made.

"But the whole nature of collective bargaining is that neither side gets everything they want," he said. "It's a sense of compromise."

In the meantime, commuters will have eight days to see if an agreement can be reached that both sides can live with.

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