Just When You Thought It Was Over:  BART Management,  Union Headed Back To Bargaining Table After Contract Snafu

8:08 PM: BART unions and management are headed back to the bargaining table to resolve an issue in the tentative labor agreement reached last month that management claims was left in the proposed contract by mistake, the BART board of directors announced tonight.

At issue is a family medical leave policy. Under the current policy, BART workers get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave when they need to care for a sick child, spouse or parent, management said.

BART officials said employees use vacation, sick time or floating holidays to pay for the time that they are away from work.

However, they said the disputed proposal would require the transit agency to provide additional paid leave for six of the 12 weeks allowed for family medical leave.

The BART board voted 7-1 to release a statement tonight saying that it is directing general manager Grace Crunican to return to the bargaining table to resolve the issue.

“We’ve reviewed the chronology of events concerning section 4.8 and are convinced that it was never the District’s intention to include the disputed Family Medical Leave Act proposal in the contract,” the statement said. “We are not comfortable with the potential liability that could result from the adoption of this contract provision.”

The board estimated that leaving the provision in the final contract could cost BART up to $44.2 million over four years.

A union attorney and union leaders told BART directors before tonight’s closed session meeting that they should approve the agreement despite management claiming leaving the provision in was a mistake.

Kerianne Steele, an attorney for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, said, “There is not a glitch and we urge the board to honor the agreement.”

Antonette Bryant, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and foreworkers, said, “There is no nefarious dealing, no clerical error and no drafting error.”

Bryant said her union “operated in good faith” during six months of contract negotiations and told BART directors, “I urge you to vote yes,” on the tentative agreement, which was reached on Oct. 21 and ended a four-day strike by employees. Employees also went on strike for four and a half days at the beginning of July before returning to the bargaining table.

The members of both unions voted by overwhelming margins two weeks ago to approve the tentative agreement and it was expected that the BART board would approve it without controversy at its meeting next Thursday.

But BART management said in a statement late Thursday that it didn’t agree to provide paid family medical leave to employees and that provision was “inadvertently” included in the final labor package.

BART officials said the paid family leave provision would add to the estimated $67 million cost of the current contract proposal, which includes a combination of wage increases, employee contributions to their health care and pension benefits and work rule changes they believe will make the agency run more efficiently.

In the public comment period before BART directors held a closed meeting with management, Steele said management created a proposed tentative agreement on paid family leave in July and it was signed on Sept. 16 by lead management negotiator Thomas Hock, Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier and Rudolph Medina, BART’s labor relations manager.

Steele told directors, “It’s not appropriate to reject a single aspect of a tentative agreement and it’s your duty to approve the agreement.”

Chris Finn, a negotiator for ATU Local 1555 who took minutes of the bargaining sessions, said, “There was no glitch and it’s very clear what the intent of the provision was.”

After the meeting, Steele said she would be more understanding of management’s position if there was confusion over a provision that was reached in the marathon bargaining the led to the tentative agreement on Oct. 21 but she said an agreement on the paid family medical leave issue was reached several months ago.

“This was not a last-minute rush job,” she said.

A timeline released by the BART board tonight claimed the unions withdrew the provision in question on June 5.

The resumed negotiations will not be led by Hock, who is no longer with the district, according to the BART board. The board said a new lead negotiator will be named shortly.

Scott Morris/Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

6:49 PM: A union attorney and union leaders told BART directors today that they should approve a tentative labor agreement even though the transit district’s management says there’s a misunderstanding over paid family medical leave.

Kerianne Steele, an attorney for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, said, “There is not a glitch and we urge the board to honor the agreement.”

Antonette Bryant, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and foreworkers, said, “There is no nefarious dealing, no clerical error and no drafting error.”

Bryant said her union “operated in good faith” during six months of contract negotiations and told BART directors, “I urge you to vote yes,” on the tentative agreement, which was reached on Oct. 21 and ended a four-day strike by employees. Employees also went on strike for four and a half days at the beginning of July before returning to the bargaining table.

The members of both unions voted by overwhelming margins two weeks ago to approve the tentative agreement and it was expected that the BART board would approve it without controversy at its meeting next Thursday.

But BART management said in a statement late Thursday that it didn’t agree to provide paid family medical leave to employees and that provision was “inadvertently” included in the final labor package.

Management isn’t recommending at this time that directors reject the agreement but it said they should factor the cost of the provision when they vote next week.

Under the current family leave policy, BART workers get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave when they need to care for a sick child, spouse or parent, management said.

BART officials said employees use vacation, sick time or floating holidays to pay for the time that they are away from work.

However, they said the disputed proposal would require the transit agency to provide additional paid leave for six of the 12 weeks allowed for family medical leave.

BART officials said the paid family leave provision would add to the estimated $67 million cost of the current contract proposal, which includes a combination of wage increases, employee contributions to their health care and pension benefits and work rule changes they believe will make the agency run more efficiently.

In the public comment period before BART directors held a closed meeting with management, Steele said management created a proposed tentative agreement on paid family leave in July and it was signed on Sept. 16 by lead management negotiator Thomas Hock, Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier and Rudolph Medina, BART’s labor relations manager.

Steele told directors, “It’s not appropriate to reject a single aspect of a tentative agreement and it’s your duty to approve the agreement.”

Chris Finn, a negotiator for ATU Local 1555 who took minutes of the bargaining sessions, said, “There was no glitch and it’s very clear what the intent of the provision was.”

After the meeting, Steele said she would be more understanding of management’s position if there was confusion over a provision that was reached in the marathon bargaining the led to the tentative agreement on Oct. 21 but she said an agreement on the paid family medical leave issue was reached several months ago.

“This was not a last-minute rush job,” she said.

During the public comment period, Jason Bezis, an attorney from Lafayette who said his commute time tripled during the worker strikes, said the tentative agreement should be scrutinized and possibly rejected.

Bezis said the contract “sloppy” and “ambiguous” and he can see why there’s confusion over the paid family leave provision.

BART directors said they expect their closed meeting to be lengthy and last until late tonight.

BART spokesman Jim Allison said it’s not clear if directors will make any announcements when they come out of their closed session.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

1:54 PM: BART management officials said today that a last-minute glitch that could threaten approval of the transit agency’s tentative agreement with its labor unions involves a paid family medical leave benefit that they have repeatedly rejected.

Management said in a statement that it never agreed to a union proposal about paid family medical leave and in fact rejected it verbally “many times” during six months of bargaining and in writing on June 6 and June 11.

However, BART officials said the union proposal was included in a stack of tentative agreements and “was signed in error” by the transit agency in July.

Management said the error was recently caught by staff members in preparation for a BART board of directors meeting next Thursday, when directors are scheduled to vote on the full tentative agreement, which was reached on Oct. 21 and ended a strike by employees.

Members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 have both voted by overwhelming margins to approve the tentative agreement.

Addressing the question of why the error occurred, BART management said, “Mistakes happen in the business world and in life every day. That is not an excuse – it is just a fact.”

BART officials said, “In a professional environment, honest misunderstandings occur. Parties then get back together and resolve the differences.”

For example, the transit agency said it tore up a signed tentative agreement with another bargaining unit that included an error in its favor “because both sides acknowledged the mistake.”

Management said the matter “will be fully vetted” before the board votes on the agreement.

BART officials said the tentative agreement contains a $67 million contract proposal that includes a combination of agreements on wage increases, employee contributions to their health care and pension benefits and work rule changes they believe will make the district run more efficiently.

Management said the paid family medical leave provision increases the cost of the contract package and must be considered by the board before it votes next Thursday. Cost estimates are expected to be complete before then, it said.

Under the current family leave policy, BART workers get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave when they need to care for a sick child, spouse or parent, management said.

BART officials said employees use vacation, sick time or floating holidays to pay for the time that they are away from work.

However, they said the disputed proposal would require the district to provide additional paid leave for six of the 12 weeks allowed for family medical leave.

Management will brief board members on the issue at a special closed meeting at 3:30 p.m. today in Oakland.

BART officials said they won’t recommend that board members reject the agreement today and said it’s “premature” to discuss the possibility of another strike if the family medical leave issue isn’t resolved.

ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant alleged Thursday night that BART management “is now attempting to go back on agreements it made in July and August that were part of the final deal.

“This is unconscionable,” Bryant said.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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  • njudah

    they paid an outsider almost a million dollars to negotiate this thing and they still messed it up? this is clearly the BART board and management’s blunder, they need to take ownership of the mistake and fix it. Also, the incumbent board members need to be either recalled or replaced in the next election. this is crazy.

  • AL M

    I think this says it all—->they paid an outsider almost a million dollars to negotiate this thing
    and they still messed it up? this is clearly the BART board and
    management’s blunder, they need to take ownership of the mistake and fix
    it. Also, the incumbent board members need to be either recalled or
    replaced in the next election. this is crazy.

  • AL M

    When you make a bad trade in the stock market there is no taking it back. They made a deal there should be no taking it back till next contract