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BART's largest union hopes to wrap up contract vote today

 

The leaders of BART's largest union, the Services Employees International Union Local 1021 (SEIU), are urging members who haven't yet voted on the transit agency's proposed contract to cast their ballot by 2 p.m. today at union headquarters.

In a message to members, the SEIU leaders stated this morning:

"The entire negotiations team is strongly recommending to the membership to ratify this contract. In lite (sic.) of these economic times, and seeing the contracts that have been signed over the last year, this is the best contract in the state, and SEIU membership to date for all of 2008 & 2009."

The message continues: "We are waiting for the completion of the ratification vote on the current contract proposal. I encourage everyone in the 2 chapters, if you haven't voted already, to set aside some time on Monday between 9 AM and 2 PM to vote at the Union Hall. This is not only your own future, but it's everyone's future at BART."

Local 1021 represents about 1,400 mechanics, custodians, safety inspectors and clerical employees.

The message is posted on the SEIU Website at http://www.seiu1021.org/bart/default.aspx

Members of the SEIU started voting last Thursday on BART management's latest proposal to save $100 million in labor costs. Other unions are expected to follow. The are the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3993.

BART is expected to provide normal train service for its customers 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.

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