BART board approves labor agreements despite looming deficit, federal funding still in limbo

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ByLaura Anthony KGO logo
Monday, December 7, 2020
BART board approves labor contracts, federal funds still in flux
On Thursday, the BART board of directors voted to approve contracts with its three labor unions for the next three years, seven months ahead of time. The agreed-upon package includes an employee wage freeze for 2021.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- On Thursday, The BART board voted to approve labor contracts with its three unions for the next three years, seven months ahead of time.

The agreed-upon package includes a wage freeze for 2021, but modest raises of less than 1% in 2022 and 2023.

These raises will take effect only if ridership returns to at least 60 percent of levels before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Bay Area.

RELATED: BART discusses lean $915 million budget for upcoming year amid low ridership due to COVID-19

"We're doing the financially responsible thing to do," BART Board President Bevan Dufty says. "This is a difficult time, but I think the employees are proud that to come to work and offer a service and I think people appreciate it."

BART director Debora Allen told her colleagues minutes before the vote, "We shouldn't be budgeting to hopeful aspiration."

Allen is among critics who say a system facing a projected $200 million dollar deficit by the end of the next fiscal year should not be locking itself in to any labor agreements now.

"If this were your household budget, it would mean you want to decide about your clothing allowance before food and shelter," California State Senator Steve Glazer of Orinda says, "it's out of balance. They don't know how much they're going to have to save on labor costs."

RELATED: BART approves new budget, millions of dollars in cuts, additional spending in preventing coronavirus spread

Last month, the BART Board approved a plan to offer early retirement packages to thousands of employees, but management will not know how many of those employees will accept the offer until later this month.

At the same time, lawmakers in Washington are still battling over a COVID-19 relief package that could include more than $300 million in federal money for BART.

"Public transportation is really the life-blood of so many people, so many essential workers, so many healthcare workers, so many low income people, so many black and brown people," said United States Representative Barbara Lee, D-Oakland. "So we cannot let our public transit systems not be funded."

RELATED: Plea from labor groups for funds to prevent major transit layoffs

BART is primarily funded by passenger revenues, and leadership expects it may take years to build back ridership to pre-pandemic levels.

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