Monday, November 04, 2013

BART labor contracts approved by two largest unions

Bay Area Rapid Transit's (BART) four-year labor contract agreements have been approved by its two largest unions. According to BART, the agreements lay the groundwork for continued reliable service for years to come.

 

"We are pleased BART's Service Employees International Union (SEIU) workers have approved the labor agreement," BART General Manager Grace Crunican said. "Both our employees and the public will benefit from the comprehensive package approved."

The contracts address the growing cost of employee benefits, allow the use of modern technology to streamline operations, while eliminating waste and ensure financial sustainability to allow BART to reinvest in its 41 year old system.

"The Bay Area and our riders will benefit from these contracts because BART will be able to move forward with the replacement of our aging fleet of train cars and the needed upgrades to meet demand," Crunican. "BART was able to gain reforms it has sought for years, which will have a positive impact on our ability to manage the system and will improve service for our customers."

BART will make some reductions in the budget because of the efficiencies included in the package by factoring in savings from the changes to work rules gained in the contract. The FY14 budget will be reexamined and adjusted.

The BART Board of Directors will soon vote on the contracts at a future board meeting.

BART employees will begin to pay into their pension, growing from one percent in the first year to four percent in the last year. Since employees previously paid nothing towards their pension, this change represents a fundamental shift in employee cost sharing at BART moving forward. Employees will pay an additional $37 to the flat rate they currently pay towards medical insurance, which is equivalent to a 9.2 percent premium contribution, up from five percent. BART employees will pay $132 a month for health care the first year and the contribution grows to $144 per month the last year.

BART increased the number of years it takes for an employee to be fully vested for retiree medical benefits from five years to 15. BART increased the amount paid per month to employees who opt out of medical coverage from $100 to $350 to provide a bigger incentive to opt out for those who may have medical benefits offered through a spouse or partner.

BART employees will receive a 15.38 percent pay increase (two percent net pay per year) over the course of four years. This size wage increase is in line with what other public sector employees have been given in recent contracts and consistent with a cost of living adjustment for employees to keep up with the high cost of living in the Bay Area.

"While employees gained a reasonable wage increase in the labor agreements, BART gained priceless changes to out dated work rules which will help pay for the wage increases while allowing BART to modernize and operate more efficiently," said Board President Tom Radulovich.

BART said it will now have better control over scheduling, attendance, preventing overtime abuse and allowing changes to equipment and technology to upgrade and improve how it runs and maintain the system.

BART says the most significant change agreed to by unions may be the revisions made to the "Beneficial Past Practice" language in the contracts, which has prevented BART from upgrading and leveraging technology and new equipment use.

Outdated rules will no longer prevent BART from transmitting information electronically instead of by fax machine or handwritten notes, entering field data via handheld devices, upgrade equipment and introduce new or even what would be considered old technology by industry standards to maintain assets. This change will also help BART make the most of technology when its new "Fleet of the Future" train cars are put into service.

Management gained the right to schedule project jobs as a five by eight shift (work eight hours, five days a week) or a four by ten shift (work ten hours, four days a week). Employees will no longer be allowed to take unpaid leave during their work week and then make overtime by working their days off. By closing this loophole, BART will save on overtime costs by cracking down on the biggest abusers and by encouraging workers to work during their regularly scheduled work week.

 

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