ATU president expects workers to reject contract

ATU 1555's president says she will take BART's final contract offer to members for a vote, but expects it will be rejected.
October 19, 2013 7:42:04 PM PDT
BART and its two largest unions are in communication, though they are not actively negotiating.

The president of one of the two unions involved said Saturday she will take the final contract offer to members for a vote, but expects it will be rejected.

Antonette Bryant said she was unsure how long it would take to get the proposal printed and into the hands of the 900 workers represented by ATU 1555.

BART and the unions agree on the financial side of the contract -- the pay, pension, and health insurance costs. However, the union says they do not agree on work rules. This includes the hours of the workday and when they receive overtime.

Word that one of BART's unions will vote on the latest contract offer came during a news conference Saturday. Union leaders also took the opportunity to read an open letter to commuters about their decision to go on strike.

In that open letter they accused management of insisting on a change in work rules that is they call unacceptable.

BART General Manager Grace Crunican and her staff have said they want a change in rules that would allow them to update certain practices like writing reports using tools like iPads, instead of writing reports by hand.

But during Saturday's news conference, Bryant said their work rules have little to do with technology and instead are in place to protect workers from the whims of management.

Among the examples she listed was protections against subcontracting.

"We're going to vote their last, best, final offer," Bryant said. "We're getting that printed up for our members now. We've got a meeting that's tentatively set. We're going to vote that contract, okay? We absolutely are. But we know that our members are going to vote it down."

Bryant also said the main reason the contract will be voted down is because it doesn't address safety issues.

BART management responded.

"These issues, by law, have been part of the package that we've been presenting since April first," BART spokesperson Rick Rice said. "So, it's been there, how many times we've talked about it I don't know."

Messages left for negotiators from the Service Employees International Union, which also represents workers, were not immediately returned.

However, SEIU president Roxanne Sanchez said they were willing to sign off on pay, health care and pension issues, and send the remaining snarl - work rules - to an arbitrator, a proposal BART has previously refused. But BART officials later said they would be willing to send the entire contract to arbitration but not the work rules alone.

To be clear, these comments came earlier Saturday, before the accident involving a BART train and the deaths of two people on the tracks.

Weekend BART use is light compared with the workweek, and frustrated commuters Friday said they hoped an agreement could be quickly reached.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit system carries its ridership through tunnels under the bay and into the region's urban core of San Francisco from four surrounding counties, relieving what would otherwise be congested bridges.

In an effort to alleviate delays, many of the Bay Area's other 27 transit systems added bus, ferry and rail service Friday. Carpools and rideshare programs were also busy, and more cyclists took to the streets. Ferry operators said their ridership doubled.

But traffic was sluggish during both commutes, and lines at bridge toll plazas were backed up for miles.

Passengers touching down at San Francisco International Airport were warned that trains weren't running, and it could take twice as long to get into the city.

Many simply avoided the hassle, telecommuting instead.

Discussions fell apart late Thursday after a marathon 30-hour negotiation with a federal mediator that put representatives from both sides at dueling press conferences, rumpled, unshaven and angry.

Talks started in April, two months before the June 30 contract expirations, but both sides were far apart. The unions initially asked for 23.2 percent in raises over three years. BART countered with a four-year contract with 1 percent raises contingent on the agency meeting economic goals.

The unions contended that members made $100 million in concessions when they agreed to a deal in 2009 as BART faced a $310 million deficit. And they said they wanted their members to get their share of a $125 million operating surplus produced through increased ridership.

But the transit agency countered that it needed to control costs to help pay for new rail cars and other improvements.

Stay with ABC7NEWS.COM for updates on the BART strike and information on how to get around while the trains aren't running. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ and download our news app for the latest news whenever and wherever you want.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)


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