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Union leaders say BART talks likely to continue next week

 

It appears that BART management and negotiators for its five labor unions will go back to the bargaining table next week after members of the transit agency's second-largest union voted unanimously against management's contract offer.

Jesse Hunt, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents about 900 train operators, station agents and power workers, said today that about three-quarters of his members voted on the offer Tuesday and that all of those who voted cast "no" votes.

Members of BART's largest union, 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 the contract proposal on Thursday.

Hunt said that after SEIU Local 1021 votes, he expects that state mediators will set up further talks for next week. Negotiations began on April 1.

Hunt said his members are upset that management didn't consider a proposal by BART's unions that he said would achieve $700 million in long-term savings, in part by extending from five years to 15 years the time period before employees would be eligible for retirement benefits.

Jean Hamilton, the president of BART's third-largest union, Local 3993 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 200 middle managers, hasn't yet scheduled a vote for

her members because she said she needs to get more information from management.

Members of ATU Local 1555, SEIU Local 1021 and AFSCME Local 3993 all voted overwhelmingly last month to approve a strike if a settlement isn't reached on a new contract.

There also are two small unions that represent BART police officers and managers. However, they're barred from going on strike.

Hunt said his members don't want to go on strike but he said all options, including a strike, are on the table if management doesn't negotiate in good faith.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson has said management believes its offer is responsible because it wants to achieve a $100 million reduction in labor costs to help offset the transit agency's budget deficit, which it now estimates is $310 million over the next four years.

BART board president Thomas Blalock welcomed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's announcement Tuesday that he won't order a 60-day cooling-off period in the contract talks if he's asked to do so.

BART directors had asked Schwarzenegger not to grant a cooling-off period.

"The cooling-off period would delay reaching a conclusion in the contract talks and would increase the size of our deficit," Blalock said in a statement.

--Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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