Time running out and still no progress on cost savings proposals at negotiating table
With two weeks left before the June 30 contract deadline, BART unions have yet to agree to a single major cost saving proposal designed to help close a $250 million, four-year deficit and secure a new labor contract that will protect jobs and worker salaries.
"The public and our ridership want and expect us to get this done by July 1," BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger said. "That’s when BART riders will start paying more in fares. It’s only right that all BART employees – union and non-union – work together to address this deficit and agree to new contracts that will prevent further fare hikes, cuts in service and layoffs."
To date, BART management has offered a number of proposals to union leaders that could cut $100 million in costs. The proposals include increased employee contributions to their PERS pension plan, the elimination of their secondary retirement plans and the reform of expensive and wasteful work rules.
Eliminating certain work rules, some of which were instituted decades ago, could save BART as much as $38 million. Many of these rules keep BART from operating efficiently. For example, the Amalgamated Transit Union continues to insist on an outdated work rule that keeps funding for 50 unneeded positions.
"We’ve been at this since April 1," Dugger said. "The unions have had plenty of time to decide what makes the best sense for them and their members. The tough choices need to be made now."
BART’s Board of Directors have already sent a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger asking him to reject any calls for a 60-day "cooling off" period after June 30. The letter sends a clear message that BART wants to conclude negotiations quickly and avoid any delays that could potentially lead to a strike by the unions over the Labor Day weekend when the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will be closed for seismic upgrades.
BART finances will suffer further if contract talks are extended. The District will incur up to an additional $1 million in negotiating costs if talks extend an additional 60 days past the June 30th deadline. Additionally, every day past the June 30th deadline adds roughly $70,000 to the overall deficit.
"It’s in everyone's interest to get this done quickly," Dugger said "Even under a new contract, BART employees will remain among the best compensated transit workers in the country. Union leaders need to help us hammer out an agreement at the negotiating table."
Leading Bay Area media organizations and institutions, such as the Bay Area Council, have joined BART management in calling for a productive and cooperative conclusion to contract talks. Visit www.BARTlabor.com for more information.