BART spokesman Linton Johnson said today that management is continuing to negotiate with union leaders representing more than 2,800 workers but there is “a pretty significant snag” over work rules that he said are inefficient and costly.

Johnson told reporters in his daily briefing that, “The talks continue but not with progress.”
Contract talks began on April 1 and have now been going on for nearly four full months. Four state mediators have been involved in the negotiations for the past month.

Johnson said that management has “an internal goal” of reaching an agreement by midnight Thursday but he didn’t make clear what will happen if there’s not at agreement at that time, saying only that “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Members of BART’s three largest unions voted by overwhelming margins last month to authorize a strike, but there are no plans to strike at this time.

Carlos Rivera, the spokesman for the transit agency’s largest union, Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents about 1,400 mechanics, custodians, safety inspectors and clerical employees, said he’s “cautiously optimistic we can reach an agreement by Thursday.”

But Rivera said his union’s negotiators tell him that the talks “are like a roller coaster” because there are a lot of ups and downs.

Johnson said management is committed to achieving $100 million in labor cost savings in order to cope with its large budget deficit, which is estimated to be $310 million over four years.

Union leaders have said they want management to look more closely at a proposal they’ve made, which they say will achieve $760 million in long-term savings.

Johnson singled out Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents about 900 train operators, station agents and power workers, as being the union that is most strongly resisting management’s proposed changes in work rules.

He said the current contract with ATU results is inefficient, inflexible and excessive station staffing levels. Management wants to revise the contract so it can staff stations with the right number of people in the right place at the right time.

Johnson said an example is a rule that bars management from re-assigning station agents to a station more than five stations away from their current station.

Johnson said the current contract also calls for the equivalent of 15 ATU Local 1555 employees per day to spend nearly 24,000 hours per year representing fellow union members at taxpayer expense.

ATU Local 1555 President Jesse Hunt couldn’t be reached for comment today.

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