muni_driver.jpgThe union representing San Francisco Municipal Railway drivers has filed a legal challenge seeking to overturn an arbitrator’s decision to impose a contract, officials said Friday.

The Transport Workers Union Local 250-A filed the petition in San Francisco Superior Court in response to a June 13, 2011 decision by an arbitrator to impose a contract that its more than 2,000 members had rejected in a vote less than a week earlier.

The union’s petition argues that the arbitrator and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency violated the terms of Proposition G.

Prop G, a ballot measure approved by voters in November 2010, changed the collective bargaining rules for the SFMTA. Last year’s contract negotiations were the first to be conducted under the new law.

If the union is successful in its challenge, officials said they do not want to renegotiate the entire contract.

“We’re primarily concerned about the work rules that were imposed,” said Ronald Austin, the union’s vice president. “Many of the changes imposed by the arbitrator created a work environment that is both unsafe and unfair.”

Despite the challenge, the SFMTA is confident the agreement will be upheld, said spokesman Paul Rose.

“The SFMTA believes that the agreement is valid,” said Rose. “The negotiations were done in accordance with the will of the voters and the letter of the law.”

The union is also challenging the legality of Prop G, which it says conflicts with existing labor laws. A hearing will be held on that challenge before the state Public Employee Relations Board later this year, union officials said.

Rose noted that U.S. Department of Labor officials rejected a union challenge to Prop G at the federal level in August.

Union members voted 944 to 488 to reject the proposed contract reached between city and union officials after three months of negotiation. The contract, imposed by an arbitrator, took effect July 1, 2011 and will remain in effect through 2014.

SFMTA officials said the contract would save more than $41 million over three years.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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