BART and labor unions might revisit contract to review paid leave provision

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BART claims a term included in its contract with labor unions was left in by mistake.

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BART management and labor unions met Monday to discuss the costs of a medical leave proposal in the contract they agreed upon earlier this month, after BART’s statement Friday that it intends to return to the bargaining table to review this provision.

After a special meeting Friday, the BART Board of Directors announced that the proposal — which gives an additional six weeks of paid leave to workers who need to care for a sick family member — was erroneously left in the contract. Meanwhile, BART’s two largest labor unions, Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, have released statements to the contrary.

“After telling the thousands of riders and their workers that we had a fair agreement, BART Management has pulled the rug from underneath the unions and the Bay Area,” said SEIU 1021 Executive Director Pete Castelli in a statement Friday. “Make no mistake: there was no confusion or glitch in the agreement.”

The BART Board of Directors, however, said in a statement that it is uncomfortable with the “potential liability” that would result from the disputed provision, noting the significant amount of money at stake, and has directed General Manager Grace Crunican to return to bargaining.

It could cost $44.2 million over four years to give the six-week paid leave to about a third of 2,301 workers, according to BART’s preliminary cost report. Currently, workers’ 12 weeks of leave can be paid only at the cost of vacation, sick time or floating holidays.

According to BART Communications Officer Luna Salaver, a temporary employee accidentally included the disputed proposal in a stack of other tentative agreements, although the provision was rejected twice in June. Negotiators had reviewed the agreements previously but did not uncover the mistake until a Nov. 4 meeting.

SEIU 1021 spokesperson Cecille Isidro said that as of Monday, the union has not scheduled any negotiation sessions with BART. The two-hour meeting Monday, in which ATU 1555 also participated, dealt with finance, not bargaining.

BART and union workers have already endured six months of negotiations, including two strikes, and agreed on a $67 million contract Nov. 1. Isidro said that when the unions voted to approve the contract, they were saying “yes” to the disputed proposal.

“We negotiated in good faith for six months,” said ATU 1555 President Antonette Bryant in a statement Thursday. “BART management is now attempting to go back on agreements it made in July and August and that were part of the final deal.”

BART hopes to resolve the issue in time for its Thursday ratification meeting, according to Salaver.

“Our goal is to try to resolve this in a professional manner,” Salaver said. “I’m sure that the public is quite exhausted by the whole 2013 labor negotiation scenario at BART.”

Contact Melissa Wen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @melissalwen.