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Union Slams BART Management For Disputing Family Leave Clause In Contract

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Union officials slammed BART management today, calling a move to scuttle a tentative contract deal and go back to the bargaining table over a disputed family leave policy the “height of incompetence.”

Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said in a statement today that the family leave policy would cost far less than what BART officials have claimed.

BART officials have said a family medical leave policy granting six weeks of paid leave to employees caring for a sick child, spouse or parent could cost up to $44.2 million over four years. Under current policy, BART workers get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and use vacation, sick time or floating holidays to pay for the time.

Bryant called BART’s estimate artificially inflated today and said the policy would only cost around $1.4 million a year.

“Let’s be clear. BART management, led by Grace Crunican, is advising the BART board to shut down the Bay Area’s transit system over $1.4 million per year,” Bryant said. “This is the height of incompetence.”

The policy would not apply to leaves taken due to employee illness or injury, but only to employees caring for a family member, Bryant said.

BART officials said this week that the paid leave policy, which was included in a tentative agreement reached Oct. 21 that ended a four-day strike by employees, was included by mistake.

The BART board voted 7-1 to release a statement Friday saying that it is directing general manager Grace Crunican to return to the bargaining table to resolve the issue. A timeline released by the BART board claimed the unions withdrew the provision in question on June 5, while union officials have said it was approved in July.

“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 dispute has left Bay Area commuters wondering whether they could face yet another strike this year. 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.

Bryant said that union members voted on the agreement as a whole and BART officials should do the same.

(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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