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BART Board OKs Contract, But Without Disputed Provision

| November 22, 2013
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Update, Friday 2:30 p.m.: The BART chapter of SEIU Local 1021 and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 issued a joint statement on the BART board’s Thursday contract vote. They say they’re very unhappy with the board’s attempt to remove a new provision for paid family leave from the contract. But they stop short of threatening a new strike.

Here’s the statement:

“We consider the Board’s actions to be unprecedented and illegitimate, and we’re considering our next steps, including possible legal action.

The BART Board of Directors has disregarded the vote of more than two thousand BART workers and has chosen to subvert the collective bargaining process, and we take their actions seriously.”

Update: Controversial former chief BART negotiator Thomas Hock has broken his silence about the disputed family medical leave provision in the contract between BART management and its two main unions.

“When I presented the last, best and final offer dated Oct. 13, 2013, and presented to the unions on Oct. 17, 2013, TA 4.8 which dealt with the Family Medical Leave Act was not included in that last, best and final offer,” Hock said in a statement released today by a spokeswoman for his company, Veolia Transportation.

Hock said he was absent from the negotiating table the long weekend of Oct. 19-21 when the disputed clause reappeared.

Hock is a central figure in this new crisis. From the Contra Costa Times:

His comments come amid growing dissent from his former bosses, the BART directors, who agreed to pay him $399,000 to lead the six months of acrimonious negotiations. In fact, the board last week directed BART General Manager Grace Crunican to investigate whether the agency had grounds to file insurance claims or take legal action in the matter, Director Joel Keller said Thursday.

Hock, Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier and Labor Relations Manager Rudolph Medina signed the family medical leave provision in July. The clause was included in the final labor package ratified Nov. 1 by members of BART’s two largest unions. BART has called the inclusion of the language a “clerical mistake.”

Union leaders said the disputed provision was “not a glitch,” but an agreement between both sides, and blamed Hock’s “minimalist” approach to negotiations as a contributing factor to any confusion.

Hock also came under fire during the negotiations. He was criticized for going to Disneyland to speak at a transit conference on Oct. 15. He was also criticized for taking vacation days during the negotiations, and for a history of labor complaints filed against him and his company.

What options do unions now have, besides walking off the job for a third time? KQED’s Mina Kim talks with John Logan, associate professor of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University.

Original post:

It’s the labor negotiation that just won’t die.

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)

The BART board today voted 8-1 in favor of ratifying the negotiated contract with its two biggest unions, but without a disputed family leave provision.

So what’s that mean, exactly? Matthias Gafni of the Bay Area News Group breaks down today’s development into this Tweet:

Essentially, @SFBART board giving GM power to return to unions and say we’ll ratify contract just w/out family medical leave (1/2)

Now it’s up to the unions to respond. The upshot of a statement from Pete Castelli, executive Director of SEIU 1021, following the vote: “We’re considering all our options.”

The sticking point here is the inclusion in the contract of a family medical leave provision, which BART says was left in by accident.

The Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli explains what that particular language allows:

Up to now, BART workers have been allowed to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to deal with serious personal or family medical problems or to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child, but they had to use sick leave, vacation days or other accrued time off. But under the disputed contract provision … BART would now pay for the first six weeks of that leave.

BART says it repeatedly rejected the disputed provision during the negotiations, and that if it remains it will end up costing $44 million over four years, assuming one-third of workers take six weeks of leave each year. The unions say that figure is vastly overinflated, because not that many workers avail themselves of the leave in a given year. They say the financial hit to BART costs out to more like $1.4 million.

Then there’s this:

“A deal is a deal,” ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant said Tuesday.

Earlier, in less aphoristic terms, Bryant said, “For them to (propose reopening the contract) is totally, totally disgusting.”

The tone was softer last night, when the unions issued this statement:

It is our expectation that the Board of Directors will honor the agreement that their chief negotiator, assistant manager and labor relations manager made with the unions. We expect the board to meet their responsibility to the workers and to the riders and approve this contract.

In the context of the board approving the contract, we are willing, through the mediator, to meet and discuss the implementation of the family medical leave provision, including its cost.

The Contra Costa Times added today that “public agencies hardly ever vote down contracts after union members have ratified them.”

AP contributed to this report.

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