Arbitrator to rule quickly in negotiations for SF's labor contract with Muni union 

An independent arbitrator is expected to rule in the next few days on the terms of a new labor contract between Muni and its operators union.

Wednesday night, members of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A overwhelmingly rejected a tentative three-year agreement that union leaders struck with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Consequently, an arbitrator could now determine the contract’s final terms.

On Thursday, an unidentified female arbitrator sat down with management and union representatives. Officials from both sides said a deal is imminent, with the decision expected Monday. A spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office said terms must be finalized by Tuesday.

Both sides at Thursday’s meeting were able to propose new terms for the contract, but neither would publicly discuss their proposals. Talks continue today and could stretch into the weekend.

The arbitrator has the final say in the matter under Proposition G, which was passed in November. That voter-backed initiative gave management greater negotiating leverage with the union, which previously had its work rules enshrined in the city charter, making them immune to bargaining.

Under Prop. G, the arbitrator’s final ruling must benefit the transit-riding public — a caveat that union officials say is vague and unfairly benefits management.

The union has filed suits to derail Prop. G in federal and state courts, and both are moving forward, union spokesman Jamie Horwitz said. So even once the arbitrator makes her final decision on the contract, Horwitz said the pact could be later annulled if Prop. G is deemed illegal.

Officials familiar with the labor talks, who only spoke on the condition of anonymity, said optimism about the impending lawsuits was one reason union members rejected the tentative agreement. Members also reportedly worried that proposed disciplinary changes would have given management too much power.

The proposed contract would have allowed the SFMTA to hire some part-time operators, change work rules to cut down on overtime pay, and remove nonlicensed drivers from its payroll. It did not include any pay cuts or increases for the operators.

Initially, the agency said it expected to realize $21 million in savings from the three-year pact. However, the agency released revised projections on Wednesday night that identified up to $46 million in cost savings.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Negotiations at a glance

May 31

SFMTA management and union leaders announced that they had reached a tentative three-year labor agreement. For the deal to be finalized, it had to be ratified by the 2,000 members of the operators union.

Wednesday

The operators union overwhelmingly rejected the agreement’s terms, sending the dispute to an independent arbitrator.

Thursday

The arbitrator began reviewing the labor negotiations. Final contract terms are expected by June 14.

Earlier this year

The operators union filed claims at the federal and state levels to prevent the implementation of Proposition G. If either claim is upheld, union officials say, terms of the new labor contract could be dissolved.

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Will Reisman

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