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BART board approves four-year contracts with key unions

New agreements eliminate work rules, achieve $100-million in labor cost savings

BART directors voted unanimously Thursday to approve contract agreements with two of the agency's largest unions, bringing to an end a long-running drama that nearly led to a strike last month.

The contracts approved are for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents about 900 train operators, station agents and power workers, and American Federation of Local, State and Municipal Employees Union Local 3993, which represents roughly 200 middle managers.

BART directors voted on Aug. 13 to approve a contract with Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which is the transit agency's largest union and represents about 1,500 mechanics, custodians, safety inspects and clerical employees.

All of the contracts are for four years.

Contract talks began April 1 and after four months of negotiations the three unions reached a tentative agreement with management on July 31. Members of SEIU Local 1021 and AFSCME approved the contract in early August but members of ATU Local 1555 voted against it by a margin of two to one.

After additional talks failed to produce an agreement, BART directors voted unanimously on Aug. 13 to impose pay and work rules on the union.

ATU Local 1555 leaders announced a few hours later that they would go on strike the following Monday morning, Aug. 17, and leaders of the other two unions said their members would honor the picket lines.

But a strike was averted the night of Aug. 16 when ATU Local 1555 reached another tentative agreement with management. About 80 percent of the union's members who participated in a vote approved the contract on Aug. 25.

BART management said the new contracts eliminate work rules that are inefficient and costly. They say it also achieves $100 million in labor cost savings to help the transit agency cope with its large budget deficit, which it estimates to be $310 million over the next four years.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson said management reached a tentative agreement with the union that represents managers in the agency's police department.

Members of that union will vote on the contract soon and if they approve it, the contract could be ratified by BART directors at their meeting next Thursday, Johnson said.

He said there are a few more issues that need to be resolved but management hopes to deal with them soon.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News, Jeb Bing

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