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Arbitrator Upholds Contract Rejected By Muni Drivers

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Passengers exit and board a San Francisco Muni bus. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Less than a week after members of the city’s transit operators’ union voted down a tentative agreement between the union and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, an arbitrator declared that the terms of that rejected agreement will become the operators’ binding contract for the next three years.

On Wednesday, union members rejected the agreement, which had been signed by union representatives and SFMTA management, by a vote of 944 to 488. Union leadership had made a yes-vote recommendation.

That tentative agreement was the product of three months of bargaining between the SFMTA and Transport Workers Union Local 250-A.

In accordance with Proposition G—passed by city voters last November—an arbitrator then became responsible for the contract and had to decide between each side’s final offers on outstanding issues.

On Monday, arbitrator Carol Vendrillo ruled that the terms of the tentative agreement would be binding between the SFMTA and the more than 2,000 union members.

According to Vendrillo’s decision, the terms of the agreement “represent the best resolution of these protracted labor negotiations and are in the best interest of both the parties and the riding public.”

Vendrillo’s decision is final and binding.

KCBS’ Susan Kennedy Reports:

The new contract will take effect on July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, and will remain in effect until 2014, according to the SFMTA.

An arbitration hearing was held with SFMTA management and union representatives on Thursday, when both parties presented their last best offers.

“Further discussion made it clear … that if any provision of the agreement were altered, the careful equilibrium that the parties had established in that agreement would be upset, and virtually all aspects … would have to be re-opened,” Vendrillo wrote in her decision.

In effect, Vendrillo ruled in the union’s favor on economic concessions and in the SFMTA’s favor regarding discipline and grievance procedures.

“We view this decision as a win for our members on wages, benefits and pension issues,” local president Rafael Cabrera said in a statement.

The SFMTA’s lead negotiator, Debra Johnson, said the new contract “will restore SFMTA’s ability to efficiently and effectively schedule transit services, and will reduce the cost of built-in overtime and standby pay by using part-time operators.”

The SFMTA anticipates that the new contract will save the agency more than $41 million in labor costs over three years through new operator scheduling provisions and a “complete revision” of the discipline, grievance and accident-review procedures, among other changes.

Combined with the three agreements negotiated with the SFMTA’s other unions, the agency expects to save nearly $44 million in labor costs over the term of the contracts.

“These are difficult economic times for everyone, and the public rightly expects all SFMTA employees to do whatever is necessary to provide cost-effective services,” agency Board of Directors Chair Tom Nolan said in a statement Monday night.

The union represents the roughly 2,200 operators of Muni’s buses and light-rail vehicles.

Cabrera said that the union does not consider the arbitrator’s decision as an end to their work.

“Our union will have to watch these managers like hawks,” he said.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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