BART Contract Negotiation Session Ends After 40 Minutes: “I would not characterize this as a good day”

BART management met with union leaders again today to try to reach an agreement before the contract for the transit agency’s employees expires Sunday night but a union official said the talks weren’t productive.

Josie Mooney, one of the lead negotiators for Service International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, said, “I would not characterize this as a good day.”

Mooney said today was the first time in 11 days that BART met in the same room with SEIU Local 1021 representatives and leaders of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers, in talks that are being facilitated by two state mediators.

She said the session, which started at 4:15 p.m., only lasted 40 minutes and during that time BART negotiators rejected “with very little comment” four proposals that union representatives made on July 19.

Earlier today, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said even though the transit agency’s negotiators haven’t been in the same room with union negotiators in recent days, management and union representatives have been meeting regularly with the mediators.

“The parties sit in separate rooms and the mediator shuttles contract offers back and forth,” Trost said.

“We’ve been doing what the mediator has asked.”

However, Mooney alleged that BART violated a gag order imposed by the mediators that the two sides not discuss contract details when it held a news conference today to discuss the details of its latest offer to employees.

“BART violated the rules of engagement,” Mooney said.

Trost said BART released the details because it believes that the public should know the details of its offer because “taxpayer money is involved and taxpayers have a right to know and we have to be accountable to them.”

Trost said management has moved a great deal since its initial offer to employees in the talks, which began on April 1. She said management initially wanted to “take back” $140 million from employees in wages, retirement costs and health care costs but its most recent proposal would give them an additional $33 million over the next four years.

Specifically, Trost said BART has doubled its salary proposal to 8 percent over four years, lowered its pension contribution to 5 percent over four years, which she said is lower than what other public employees pay, and lowered its medical premium contribution to less than what average public and private sector employees pay.

In contrast, Trost said union leaders’ are asking for a 21.5 percent pay increase over three years and want to continue paying just $92 a month for healthcare and only want to make a 3 percent pension contribution at the end of three years.

Mooney said she didn’t want to violate the mediators’ gag order by discussing the details of the contract proposals but she said BART’s proposal would still result in cutbacks in the total economic package for many employees.

Contract talks will resume at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Mooney said.

BART employees went on strike the morning of July 1 but late on July 4 they agreed to extend their previous contract for 30 days, until Aug. 4, and return to work the afternoon of July 5.

The four-and-a-half day strike clogged local highways and caused commuting headaches for Bay Area residents.

Regional transit officials, who fear that the commuting nightmare could be repeated next Monday if BART doesn’t reach an agreement with its employees by Sunday night, held a conference call today to develop contingency plans to try to deal with another strike.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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