Muni management seeking to change disciplinary process for its operators 

Muni management wants to streamline the process whereby problem transit operators can be suspended and terminated.

Under the agency’s current contract with operators, drivers can only be fired if they rack up multiple cases of the same type of violation, such as theft, preventable collisions, drunken driving or absence without leave. But operators who accrue more than one different type of such violations can escape discipline.

Management also is hoping to shorten the lengthy disciplinary process for its transit operators, who can collect paychecks even while they are suspended and not driving.

Operators who have been suspended by management for offenses such as accidents, traffic violations or passenger complaints can currently contest the decision through a lengthy appeals process, during which they continue to collect pay.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, wants to eliminate several steps in the process. Under its proposal, the initial process would consist of a single due-process hearing, which would determine termination of the worker. Operators would still be able to appeal their termination to a neutral arbitrator, but they would only receive back pay for this period if they were eventually reinstated.

The SFMTA and the drivers union are engaged in historic labor negotiations, made possible by the passage of Proposition G in November. Before Prop. G was passed, work rules for operators — such as the provision that they receive the second-highest hourly pay in the industry — were enshrined in the City Charter and immune to collective bargaining. Now, SFMTA management can negotiate with the operators, and the agency has projected $26 million in savings from the labor talks, which must be completed before June 30.

SFMTA consultant Charles Goodyear said the two sides have not agreed on the proposed changes to the agency’s disciplinary process. However, he said overall talks among the two groups are progressing well.

Officials from Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents about 2,000 transit operators, have not returned calls for comment on the proposed changes.

Unlike some of its other labor negotiation initiatives, the SFMTA hasn’t identified a specific amount of savings for the proposed changes to the disciplinary process. However, since 2009, the agency has reported that 8,233 operator days have been missed because of suspensions, costing the agency $3.9 million in pay losses.

Along with speeding up the disciplinary process, the SFMTA wants to eliminate the provision that allows Muni operators to confront customers who have accused them of malfeasance, and extend the time for which the agency can pursue charges against the drivers.

Stop and go

$26M Proposed SFMTA labor savings from contract negotiations with operators
$1.5M Pay collected by nondriving operators in 2010 fiscal year
$2.4M Pay collected by nondriving operators in 2011 fiscal year
8,233 Operator days lost to suspensions since 2009

Source: SFMTA

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Will Reisman

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