With the deadline for the expiration of BART's labor union contracts fast approaching, BART management said today that it is has just called for a state mediator to help swiftly conclude contract talks with the leaders of BART's two biggest unions, SEIU and ATU. BART management says at this point, the union leaders are making proposals that would essentially double the District's four-year, $200 million deficit.
"Union leaders say they want to get a contract signed by June 30th," said BART General Manager Tom Margro. "But at this point it is clear the leadership of BART's two biggest unions are unwilling to recognize that BART is in a financial crisis. Their latest demand, which the District rejected today, was for a three-year deal that would cost BART riders and taxpayers an additional $177 million. Basically, the union leaders told us that if we don't accept their second package proposal as is, then they'll revert back to their first offer."
The first proposal, now the current proposal, would give employees an 18% percent increase in wages compounded over three years. Combined with their benefit demands, it would cost BART riders and taxpayers at least an additional $200 million over three years. The District already faces a $53 million deficit next year alone and a projected four-year deficit of $200 million. (Proposals to reduce the FY 06 deficit to $23 million are scheduled for consideration at the BART Board meeting on Thursday, May 26.)
"We are asking the unions to help solve BART's financial challenges today and for the future," Margro said. "Instead their proposal doubles the size of the problem. The skyrocketing cost of healthcare and pension benefits is damaging the financial future of the transit district. Benefit costs have increased 66% in the last four years and are projected to increase another 70% over the next four years. We simply cannot afford to ask our riders to sacrifice more simply to appease union leadership demands."