Muni Drivers’ Union Denies Responsibility For Transit-Crippling “Sickout”

The president of the union representing San Francisco Municipal Railway employees said today his office had nothing to do with the worker “sickout” that has left half of Muni’s vehicle fleet out of service and riders facing major delays citywide.

“The union played no role in what’s happening on the streets right now, we did not sanction that,” said Eric Williams, president of Transport Workers Union Local 250-A.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials said a large number of Muni workers called in sick Monday and again today. Only about 200 of the agency’s 600 vehicles were in service Monday and another 100 were added to service today.

As a result, no cable cars have been in service Monday or today and there is no limited-stop bus service, according to Muni officials who said riders could face delays of up to an hour.

Williams said the sickout may have been prompted by some workers’ frustration over the latest contract proposed by the SFMTA.

Members of TWU Local 250-A, which represents about 2,200 Muni workers and other San Francisco city employees, voted 1,198-to-47 Friday to reject the new contract.

The contract would give a pay raise to workers but would also require them to contribute to their pensions. Williams said the proposal equated to a $1.10-per-hour decrease in workers’ take-home pay.

“It’s totally unfair,” he said. “We’re not asking for anything special.”

He said his union members “don’t have a problem with paying their own pension,” but said it should be a fair swap similar to ones given in recent agreements with other city employee unions.

Williams said no new talks have been scheduled with the SFMTA but said “we’re ready to go back to the table.”

Muni spokesman Paul Rose was not immediately available to comment on possible contract talks but said Monday that the agency’s offer was in line with those offered to most other city workers.

Muni officials were not immediately saying whether they expected the worker action to extend to Wednesday.

Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement today expressing frustration with the drivers who participated in the sickout.

Lee said the drivers “irresponsibly abandoned their jobs and intentionally disrupted our city’s public transportation system. This cannot continue.”

“There is a clear and agreed upon process in place to arbitrate the agreement you are disputing, a process the union has agreed to and the voters put in place,” he said. “The public should not be punished any longer.”

Union officials have complained about a 2010 law approved by San Francisco voters that altered the rules for arbitration proceedings between the SFMTA and the union and banned Muni worker strikes.

Muni officials issued a memo to workers Monday requiring them to provide verification from a health care provider in order to receive sick paid leave and said they may face discipline if no verification is received.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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