Muni-pay amendment eyed for November 

Voters could have the opportunity to eliminate Muni drivers’ guarantee that they receive the second-highest wage in the nation every year.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd filed a charter amendment Monday initiating the process for gathering 70,000 signatures by July 6 to place it on the November ballot.

The measure is moving forward as the cash-strapped San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency plans to reduce service by 10 percent starting May 1 and most likely will vote April 20 on other methods to close a $56.4 million budget gap for next fiscal year.

Elsbernd started his campaign for the measure after his effort to place a similar charter amendment on the ballot through the Board of Supervisors’ process died due to a lack of support. The City was then engaged in negotiations with the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators. In the end, however, drivers rejected concessions that would have saved the transit agency
$15 million.

The measure would “reset the contract The City has with our bus operators,” Elsbernd said. If approved by voters, it would impact negotiations when Muni operators’ contract expires in June 2011.

“First and foremost, it removes from the charter mandate that they receive at least the second-highest salary every year,” Elsbernd said.

“These resulting higher labor costs inevitably undercut the MTA’s ability to preserve and enhance services for Muni ridership,” said the notice of intent filed with the Elections Department on Monday to begin collecting signatures.

It also would remove from the City Charter that drivers receive a “$3,000 bonus,” said to be for dependent health costs “even though 60 percent of the employees don’t have dependents,” Elsbernd said. And it would clear the transit agency of “arcane work rules” that have led to “inefficient service to its ridership,” Elsbernd said.

“Antiquated and inflexible work rules contained in labor agreements undercut The City’s ‘Transit First’ policy by failing to ensure that employees have their primary work hours scheduled at the times when their services are most needed,” the document said.

“I think what this proposal does is really ask the voters to answer the question: Are we transit-first?” Elsbernd said.

Muni operators labor leader Irwin Lum did not return calls for comment.

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