BART outline goals to avoid possible turmoil

BART is taking its first baby steps toward reconciliation between its unions, board and management in hopes of averting another strike.
At the BART Board of Directors meeting Thursday, the board approved a “vision statement” for labor-management relations, part of the healing process between the contentious parties.

BART director Rebecca Saltzman serves on the Labor Negotiations Review Ad Hoc Committee, which is hammering out new ways to smooth out the bargaining process.

“We’ve had very good monthly meetings,” Saltzman told the board. “I think it’s been fantastic.”

The vision statement says the board believes “collaborative employer-employee relations are essential to maintain an effective workforce, and to provide high quality services to BART customers.”

In the statement, the board said it takes responsibility for setting direction and providing oversight at BART, and pledges a commitment to “open communication and innovative problem solving.”

In addition to drafting the vision statement, the committee is also tackling a backlog of concerns from BART’s unions: the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The backlog consists of concerns as simple as safety shoes, to ones as complex as wage arbitration. Slowly but surely, the backlog is clearing. BART hopes to clean the slate in time for its 2017 labor negotiations.

“Gaining trust and falling into each others arms won’t get us there,” Chris Finn, president of ATU local 1555, said. “It’s about hard work, and coming to the table … let’s pick a real issue, that’s a real challenge, and let’s deal with it.”

That may not be so easy. For decades, according to documents, a rift has grown between factions at BART.

The public got a glimpse of this rift during the 2013 BART strike, following stalled labor negotiations.

Finn said he didn’t want to oversell the progress made, but he was more hopeful than he’s been before.

“We’re a few steps down a long road,” Finn said, “but they’re very promising steps.”

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