BART standoff over contract negotiations still dragging on 

click to enlarge BART strike
  • Cindy Chew/Examiner File Photo
  • Another BART strike in the works?

The good news: BART has more money available, now that $174 million in federal funding is no longer at risk.

The bad news: The cash doesn't solve the transit agency's ongoing labor dispute, which -- with about a month before a possible second strike -- appears to be stalled.

The windfall comes courtesy of a deal struck Wednesday by state lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown, whose pension reforms temporarily froze federal grants that were headed to California transit agencies.

The restored grants will give BART some of the money it needs to buy new rail cars and upgrade its 40-year-old system -- but, as the agency has said all summer, those long-term, expensive capital projects also require concessions from unions in addition to a sales tax or bonds approved by voters.

And as BART and its 3,200 union workers approach the midway point of a 60-day cooling-off period imposed by a judge Aug. 10 at Brown's request, no headway has been made on reaching agreements over pay, health care benefits and pensions.

Both sides blame the other for the lack of progress.

The first bargaining sessions since Aug. 10 are scheduled for next week, but BART officials called a news conference Thursday to announce that those meetings will be pointless unless the unions are willing to abandon "financially unsustainable" proposals.

"They haven't even responded" to BART's latest offer, which came Aug. 10, said spokeswoman Alicia Trost. She added that union leadership needs to either present BART's offer -- described as the agency's "final" one -- to membership for a vote or present a vastly different proposal to BART in order for bargaining to continue.

The transit agency is offering 2.5 percent annual raises over the next four years, with increased health care premiums and first worker contributions to pensions.

BART workers -- who agreed to give back $100 million in future compensation in 2009 -- are proposing double the raises, but 7 percent pension contributions and lower health care premiums.

Union officials have repeatedly said the agency's offer would be roundly rejected by membership.

Sources close to negotiations say BART was close to offering a contract more in line with union requests, but pulled out after the 60-day cooling-off period removed incentive to strike a deal quickly.

"Why even bother with a cooling-off period if we're just going to be in the same place 60 days later?" said Patricia Schuchardt, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3993, which represents about 200 BART employees, including train operators. "You have to come to the table -- and the district is refusing to come to the table."

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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