BART Union Considering Concessions On Wages, pensions, And Benefits

BART employee unions are considering reducing requested wage hikes and agreeing to pay pension premiums and higher medical insurance costs at labor contract talks in Oakland today, a union spokesman said.

Labor officials and BART managers are trying to nail down a pact by tonight in advance of a court hearing Sunday requested by Gov. Brown to prevent a threatened strike by BART workers, Service Employees International Union Local 1021 spokesman Des Patten said.

BART employees went on a strike on July 1 that lasted four days and affected about 400,000 Bay Area residents who use the train system on weekdays.

Today’s talks at the Caltrans District 4 office in Oakland began at 10 a.m., after breaking up at 11 p.m. Friday to crunch numbers on possible scenarios for major issues such as wages, pensions, health insurance and safety rules, Patten said.

The numbers included calculations of “how much it would cost” if the SEIU and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 reduced their proposed wage increases, paid for part of their pensions and a higher monthly rate for medical benefits, Patten said.

Both sides hope that the last minute talks will produce a contract in advance of the scheduled 9 a.m. hearing in San Francisco Superior Court on Brown’s request for an injunction that would temporarily block another strike by BART workers if there is no contract.

Brown is asking Judge Curtin E.A. Karnow to order a 60-day cooling off period that would give BART and its two unions, which have threatened to strike on Monday, that much more time to negotiate.

“Progress has been made,” Patten said late this afternoon. “We’ve been working at it all day. I imagine we’ll take a break for dinner. It moves slow, but it is moving.”

“The idea is to get it signed, sealed and delivered so the governor won’t have to go with the 60-day cooling off period,” Patten said.

Patten said that the unions “have looked into paying more” for pension and medical benefits.

“It comes down to which one, and what year,” he said.

The unions’ four-year contract with BART ended on June 30 and the new contract could be three or four years long, Patten said.

Each marathon talk session “cuts into your sleep, and everything else,” Patten said.

Representatives for BART could not be reached by phone this afternoon.

The SEIU represents 1,430 BART mechanics, custodians and clerical workers and the ATU represents 945 station managers.

Jeff Burbank, Bay City News

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