Work rules for employees emerged as a key issue in BART contract negotiations that resulted in union leaders announcing that workers would go on strike last Friday.
Josie Mooney, a lead negotiator for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said union leaders offered to go to arbitration to try to resolve differences about management's proposed changes to work rules but management refused.
Speaking to reporters outside the Caltrans building in downtown Oakland where contract talks took place, Mooney said the unions' plan to go on strike "was not about money" but instead was about "an employer who wants to go on strike."
Antonette Bryant, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said in a statement that, "We've found agreement on nearly every 'must-have' issue for both sides including wages, pensions and benefits."
But she alleged that in the last 72 hours of negotiations, management demanded "new and unreasonable" workplace authority that would give managers "license to abuse and extort our workers."
BART management spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the transit agency wants work rules to be part of a comprehensive agreement with its employees, not a separate matter that would be decided in arbitration.
Trost said management wants to change work rules because it believes it would make BART more efficient and save money.
Rick Rice, another BART spokesman, said, "Work rule changes are very important and we're insisting on them."
Although Bryant said the unions had found agreement with management on wage, pensions and other benefits, Rice said management was still "far apart" from the unions on those issues.
BART Board President Tom Radulovich said last Monday that one work rule management wants to change is a provision that allows workers to get overtime even on weeks when they call in sick for a day if they work an extra day when they weren't originally scheduled to work.
"They can get overtime even though they don't work 40 hours," Radulovich said.
He said, "Most of our workers don't do that, but some do."
Radulovich said current work rules that management believes favor workers are "a very expensive proposition" for BART.
Rice said at this point no further meetings between management and the unions are scheduled.
"I don't know when we might meet again," he said.