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BART Board Seeks Return To Bargaining Table Over Contract Glitch

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(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – BART unions and management are headed back to the bargaining table to resolve an issue in the tentative labor agreement reached last month that management claims was left in the proposed contract by mistake, the BART board of directors announced Friday night.

At issue is a family medical leave policy. Under the current policy, BART workers get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave when they need to care for a sick child, spouse or parent, management said.

BART officials said employees use vacation, sick time or floating holidays to pay for the time that they are away from work.

However, they said the disputed proposal would require the transit agency to provide additional paid leave for six of the 12 weeks allowed for family medical leave.

The BART board voted 7-1 to release a statement Friday night saying that it is directing general manager Grace Crunican to return to the bargaining table to resolve the issue.

“We’ve reviewed the chronology of events concerning section 4.8 and are convinced that it was never the District’s intention to include the disputed Family Medical Leave Act proposal in the contract,” the statement said. “We are not comfortable with the potential liability that could result from the adoption of this contract provision.”

The board estimated that leaving the provision in the final contract could cost BART up to $44.2 million over four years.

A union attorney and union leaders told BART directors before Friday night’s closed session meeting that they should approve the agreement despite management claiming leaving the provision in was a mistake.

Kerianne Steele, an attorney for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, said, “There is not a glitch and we urge the board to honor the agreement.”

Antonette Bryant, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and foreworkers, said, “There is no nefarious dealing, no clerical error and no drafting error.”

Bryant said her union “operated in good faith” during six months of contract negotiations and told BART directors, “I urge you to vote yes,” on the tentative agreement, which was reached on Oct. 21 and ended a four-day strike by employees. Employees also went on strike for four and a half days at the beginning of July before returning to the bargaining table.

The members of both unions voted by overwhelming margins two weeks ago to approve the tentative agreement and it was expected that the BART board would approve it without controversy at its meeting next Thursday.

But BART management said in a statement late Thursday that it didn’t agree to provide paid family medical leave to employees and that provision was “inadvertently” included in the final labor package.

BART officials said the paid family leave provision would add to the estimated $67 million cost of the current contract proposal, which includes a combination of wage increases, employee contributions to their health care and pension benefits and work rule changes they believe will make the agency run more efficiently.

In the public comment period before BART directors held a closed meeting with management, Steele said management created a proposed tentative agreement on paid family leave in July and it was signed on Sept. 16 by lead management negotiator Thomas Hock, Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier and Rudolph Medina, BART’s labor relations manager.

Steele told directors, “It’s not appropriate to reject a single aspect of a tentative agreement and it’s your duty to approve the agreement.”

Chris Finn, a negotiator for ATU Local 1555 who took minutes of the bargaining sessions, said, “There was no glitch and it’s very clear what the intent of the provision was.”

After the meeting, Steele said she would be more understanding of management’s position if there was confusion over a provision that was reached in the marathon bargaining the led to the tentative agreement on Oct. 21 but she said an agreement on the paid family medical leave issue was reached several months ago.

“This was not a last-minute rush job,” she said.

A timeline released by the BART board Friday night claimed the unions withdrew the provision in question on June 5.

The resumed negotiations will not be led by Hock, who is no longer with the district, according to the BART board. The board said a new lead negotiator will be named shortly.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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