The leaders of BART's two largest unions, SEIU and ATU, are taking BART management's latest proposal to save $100 million in labor costs to their membership for a vote this week. Other unions are expected to follow.
BART is expected to provide normal train service for its customers through the week as voting take place.
"This is a fair and equitable four-year proposal," BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger said. "It achieves the objectives we laid out: preserving employees' base salaries, capping medical costs while still offering full medical care for the entire family and eliminating wasteful work rules that often cause the District to pay excessive overtime."
"It also offers a small wage increase in the last year of the contract funded by savings achieved in this proposal," she added. "We are also pleased that no strike has been announced."
BART management has been negotiating with its five labor unions since April 1 on new contracts that address BART's financial challenges. During that time, the four year-deficit, projected at $250 million, has grown by approximately $60 million because of lower than expected ridership and sales tax returns, a BART spokesman said.
"Based on the latest drop in sales tax rvenue, the worst in BART's 37 year history, and declining ridership, we're now facing a worsening financial picture," said BART Board of Directors President Thomas M. Blalock. "The FY10 (fiscal year 2010) deficit forecast has increased by $16 million and the four-year deficit has grown by another $60 million."
"The way the economy seems to be going, the financial picture will likely become increasingly worse," he added.
Blalock said tht during the past few months, the BART Board and management have adopted measures to reduce costs, cut spending and raise revenues by more than $150 million dollars through a 6.1 percent fare increase, the introduction of parking fees at more East Bay stations and modestly reducing night and weekend service so the maximum wait time between trains is 20 minutes instead of 15 minutes. The BART board needed $100 million in cost savings through labor negotiations to avoid major additional fare increases and service cuts to BART customers.
A BART spokesman said that the average union worker makes $114,000 a year in wages and benefits. Even without an increase in salary, the cost of simply maintaining the current benefits for BART employees over the next four years accounts for nearly half of BART's four-year shortfall.
To illustrate the order of magnitude, just to maintain benefits is the equivalent to a 15 percent increase in total compensation, he explained.