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With a Week to Go, Signs of Movement in BART Contract Talks

| October 3, 2013
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A BART train idled during strike in early July. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A BART train idled during strike in early July. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Update, Monday, Oct. 7: New Poll Numbers, Contract Gap Narrows

Suddenly, with a week to go until a 60-day cooling-off period expires, we’ve got signs of movement in the BART labor talks. The transit agency’s two biggest unions — the BART chapter of SEIU Local 1021 and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 — announced this morning they’ve reached “an understanding” on pension contributions with management negotiators. They also say they’re making a new proposal on two other issues that have frozen negotiations for months: pay and health-care benefits.

The unions say that they have an agreement with BART on a “cost-neutral swap” for future pension contributions (more on that below). BART wants union members to begin pension payments at 1 percent of their annual salary, rising to 4 percent of salary in the contract’s fourth year.

The unions also announced new proposals on pay and medical benefits:

  • A pay increase of about 12 percent over three years. That compares to their opening position of 23 percent over four years. BART has offered 10 percent over four years.
  • Additional small pay increases if BART ridership increases faster than the agency forecasts.
  • A 15 percent increase in health-care contributions for all BART workers. Currently, union members pay $92 a month for medical coverage, even if family members are included. BART has proposed continuing flat-rate payments for individual members and limiting payments for family coverage to the least expensive of either a Kaiser or Blue Shield plan.

Now back to that “cost-neutral swap” on pensions. Here’s how Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News summarizes it:

“Both sides actually agreed on something, even if it was just on basic math: For every dollar in pay raises an employee would get, they could contribute 72 cents toward their pensions and still wind up with the same take-home paycheck since pension contributions are taken from pre-tax wages. But that formula doesn’t mean much yet since they can’t agree on either how much the pension contributions or pay increases should be.”

Negotiations were scheduled to resume this afternoon.

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Category: Labor, Transportation

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.
  • Kent London

    BART should not sweeten their offer any more. 10% increase over already grossly overpaid wages is more than generous and justified ($135,000 a year average wage and benefits). On top of that, please make the Work Rules more reasonable. Currently union workers work 35 hours a week. They can call in sick then show up for work as overtime. (That’s why you see some train operators and station agents made more than $150,000 in 2012) The contract bars BART to train operators until strike happens and mandate the training to be 15 weeks (train operators just flip switches and make announcements), which holds public hostage for 15 weeks if union strike.

    • DrDuran

      Kent, please stop pulling numbers from your nether regions. Bart full time workers work 40 hour work weeks with half hour paid lunches. Management likes to say that makes it a 37.5 hour work week. More misinformation from them. Where you could get 35 hours I have no clue. In reality if work weeks were 37.5 hours I should only be charged 37.5 hours of vacation if I take a week off.

      • Big Daddy

        http://www.mercurynews.com/salaries/bay-area/2012

        Get the facts. Draw your own conclusions.

        • disqus_fFOP7kjAQO

          Hey big daddy. Those numbers were proved inaccurate by the governors board of inquiry (BOI). The were over stated and what people are reading in the paper about average pay is a result of average with managers. I wish the dirty tricks would stop.

        • DrDuran

          How does that have anything to do with my comment? Learn to read.

  • Kent London

    Mr. Duran, go to the site Big Daddy cited below, which is Mercury News Bay area salary data, and see for yourself if the $150,000 year wage/overtime for some workers is correct. you may recognize personally. A few examples: Yuen, Oi, Mechnical Worker, $222,029, page 3; Aquilina, David, Operations Forewoker, $202,136, p-6; De Lisle, James, Train Operator, $193,407, p-8; Nicholas, Christine, Station Agent, $153,887, p-9. You can check for your name to see if this report is correct.
    Do you really think your golden benefits do not worth $40,000? Not a dime to retirement, but get paid much better than Social Security when retires? $92/moth health
    insurance with low co-pay for a family? 22-30 vacation days a year? No BART fare for the whole family (no wonder union workers don’t feel the pain of the most expensive train system in the nation). We the riders and public can’t afford your high pay and BART high fare!.

    • DrDuran

      How does thAt have anything to do with my comment?