Monday, November 18, 2013

Disputed proposal may send BART, unions back to negotiations

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Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officials are requesting a return to the negotiating table after it was discovered a provision was included in its recent labor contract that the district did not agree to.

 

After six months of bargaining, BART and its unions agreed to a $67-million contract proposal that included a combination of agreements on wage increases, contributions to health care and pension by BART employees, and work rule changes that will make BART run more efficiently.

The disputed proposal concerns section 4.8 of the tentative agreement, which deals with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA allows workers to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave when needed to care for a sick family member. BART says its employees use vacation, sick time or floating holidays to pay for the time that they are away from the District under FMLA.

The disputed proposal would require BART to provide additional paid leave for six of the 12 weeks allowed under FMLA. BART said section 4.8 was rejected in writing on June 6 and June 11, 2013. However, the section was included in a stack of tentative agreements that BART did sign in July 2013. A final review of the contract brought the error to light.

According to BART, up until now, the board had been told the agreed upon package between BART and its unions totaled $67 million. However, the proposal increases the cost of the package and the board must consider that cost before a vote is taken.

BART Board President Tom Radulovich issued the following statement on behalf of the BART Board of Directors:

"We've reviewed the chronology of events concerning section 4.8 and are convinced that it was never the District's intention to include the disputed Family Medical Leave Act proposal in the contract. We've also reviewed the preliminary costing of the proposed benefit.

"We are not comfortable with the potential liability that could result from the adoption of this contract provision. We have directed the general manager to go back to the bargaining table and continue a discussion with union officials in an attempt to resolve the matter.

"Former chief negotiator Tom Hock is no longer associated with the District. A new chief negotiator will be named shortly. The board is disappointed that this error occurred and was not caught earlier. All aspects of the matter will be fully investigated and any appropriate disciplinary action will be taken. Furthermore, all of our bargaining procedures will be reviewed and improved for transparency and accuracy."

UPDATE:

BART Board President Tom Radulovich issued the following statement on Nov. 21:

"Today the BART Board of Directors voted 8 to 1 to accept the $67 million offer that was agreed to at the bargaining table with our unions. We hope the unions will take the agreement minus the six weeks of additional paid leave that was mistakenly included in the final document, back to their members.

Simply put, the District cannot afford to give its employees another six weeks of paid leave, on top of the generous leave already allowed in the BART employee benefit package.

If the union members ratify the contract minus the mistaken proposal, the Board also gives the General Manager authority to sign the contract without another Board vote."

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