Muni, union reach tentative deal that would save $21M 

Muni and leaders of the operators union have agreed to a tentative labor agreement with a savings of roughly $21.3 million, but the deal must be approved by union rank-and-file who have rejected cost-saving measures in the past.

Under the pact, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency could hire some part-time operators, change work rules to reduce overtime pay and remove nonlicensed drivers from its payroll, said Muni spokesman Charles Goodyear. There would be no operator pay raises during the three-year contract.

The agency originally hoped to save $26 million each year, as it faces a $22.3 million deficit and a growing shortfall in the years ahead. However, proposed cost-savings measures such as a 10 percent pay reduction, elimination of premium pay provisions and the end of paid lunch breaks do not  appear to be included in the agreement.

The tentative pact, which will save the $21 million over three years for an annual savings of $7 million, must now be approved by members of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni’s 2,000 operators. Last year, union leaders and Muni management agreed on two separate cost-saving measures that ultimately were not implemented because rank-and-file operators voted them down. At that time, Local 250-A was the only major union in The City to vote against cost-saving measures.

Union members have until June 8 to ratify the agreement. If they do, the SFMTA board of directors must then sign off on the contract. If union members reject the deal, negotiations will go before an arbitrator.

Although Goodyear issued a press release that highlighted elements of the new contract, the actual document is not publicly available.

Local 250-A spokesman Jamie Horwitz accused the SFMTA of violating an agreement to keep the contract’s terms private until the union members could vote on the deal.

“We find it very inappropriate that the agency would talk about the terms and conditions and try to spin this agreement, in violation of what has been discussed,” Horwitz said. “It’s a very bad sign that within minutes of reaching a tentative agreement, they’re already going back on their word.”

Yet Horwitz added that he was happy the agreement contained no wage concessions.

Last November, voters passed Proposition G, an initiative that gave the SFMTA more power to bargain with the union. Prior to the measure’s passage, the union’s work rules — including a stipulation that its members receive the nation’s second-highest pay rate — were enshrined in the city charter and immune to bargaining.

Prop. G co-author Gabriel Metcalf did not review the tentative contract, but said the initial details released Tuesday were encouraging.

“There are a lot of things the public wants that aren’t in the agreement,” Metcalf said. “But for the first time in living memory, we’re seeing the possibility of a Muni contract that balances the interest of labor with the interest of riders.”

The bargaining session featured several contentious moments, including a vote by the union to allow for a strike if negotiations deteriorated and a federal complaint filed by the union to stop the implementation of Prop. G. Strikes are barred in the union’s contract with the SFMTA, and the federal complaint against Prop. G could still jeopardize $2 billion in funding for planned Muni projects.

Horwitz said the union would continue to pursue legal action against Prop. G, despite the tentative agreement.

Looking under the hood of the contract

  • No wage raises or concessions
  • Redefinition of overtime as work performed in excess of eight hours per day and 40 hours a week
  • The hiring of part-time operators at a number equal to 15 percent of the total operator workforce
  • Extending from 14 days to 42 days the amount of time the SFMTA may take to conduct disciplinary investigations
  • Eliminating a contract provision that allows unlicensed operators to remain on the payroll

Source: SFMTA

Clarification: This article was edited on June 1, 2011. An earlier version of this article did not make it clear about the timeframe for the savings by the SFMTA. The proposed contract would save the agency $7 million per year for a savings of $21 million over three years.

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Will Reisman

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