Members of BART's two biggest labor unions will vote starting tomorrow on a contract offer that management says is fair but union leaders haven't endorsed because they say it isn't very good.
Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents about 900 train operators, station agents and power workers, will vote on Tuesday.
Members of the BART chapter of Local 1021 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 1,400 mechanics, custodians, safety inspectors and clerical employees, will vote on Thursday.
Jean Hamilton, the president of Local 3993 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 200 middle managers, said today that she isn't ready to take the offer to her members because she needs more information about costs and other details.
Hamilton said she will meet with BART management on Monday to try to get the information she needs. She said if she decides to take the offer to her members she will arrange for them to vote by next Thursday.
BART management made the offer late Thursday night on the 99th day of its negotiations, shortly before the unions' four-year contract expired. Union members will work without a contract until they vote on the proposed new contract.
BART spokesman Linton Johnson said today that management believes its offer "is a good offer, especially in these hard economic times."
Although the proposed contract calls for employees to pick up more of the cost for their health care and retirement benefits, Johnson said it doesn't call for any salary reductions.
He said the contract calls for a wage freeze for three years followed by a small increase in the fourth year.
Johnson said the contract achieves management's priorities of saving $100 million in labor costs and eliminating wasteful and unproductive work rules.
Management said throughout the negotiating process that it wants to reduce its labor costs because it faces a projected $250 million budget deficit over the next four years.
General Manager Dorothy Dugger upped the ante on Thursday by saying that new estimates, based on declining ridership and sales tax revenues, indicate that the four-year deficit could even be $60 million larger, for a total shortfall of $310 million over that period.
ATU Local 1555 President Jesse Hunt said today that even though he doesn't think management's proposal is a good offer but he's asking his members to vote on it "to let the democratic process have its say."
SEIU Local 1021 chief negotiator Larry Gerber said late Thursday that management's proposal "is not very good" but he wants his members to have a chance to vote on it.
Hunt and Gerber both said they're presenting the offer to their members without a recommendation.
Gerber said if union members vote to reject the contract, union leaders will then ask Gov. Schwarzenegger to declare a 60-day cooling off period.
Johnson said BART directors sent a letter to the governor last month asking him not to grant a cooling-off period. He said he hopes that union leaders would return to the bargaining table if their members vote against the proposed contract.
However, a strike would be possible because BART's three biggest unions all voted by overwhelming margins last month to authorize a strike.
There also are two small unions that represent BART police officers and managers.
However, members of the police unions are barred from going on strike.