BART, union negotiations stall during cooling-off period


When Gov. Jerry Brown asked a judge to impose a 60-day cooling off period between BART and its unions, the message was clear; the negotiations should continue. So far, that hasn't happened.

"We have not been in the same building with them other than meetings that, perhaps, took place on other issues," said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant.

There have been no face to face meetings since August 11. And according to the unions, the first substantive talks on the major issues -- wages, pension and healthcare aren't scheduled until Sept. 17.

"And, I am extremely disappointed that we haven't been able to come to the table before. And it is not for the lack of trying," said Service Employees International Union chief negotiator Josie Mooney.

The last offer on the table is one presented by BART before the cooling-off. That is a 10 percent raise over four years, with greater employee contributions to pensions and healthcare. The unions claim one-quarter of their members would suffer a net loss under that proposal.

"What they have in the package, we actually end up with a negative increase. In other words, we're losing money," said BART worker Des Patten.

BART released a statement that read: "There is no scenario in which it is a pay cut. Every employee stands to gain thousands of extra dollars."

The unions blame the governor for taking the heat off the district and the leverage out of the process by calling for the cooling-off period.

"I don't think we really need to talk about blame. We just need to talk about getting it done," said St. Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward.

Negotiations are set for next week on preliminary issues. If there's no agreement by Oct. 10, BART's unions could strike for a second time.

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