BART, unions begin contract negotiations

The next few months are sure to be tense at BART headquarters, with contract talks between management and the agency’s main union groups now under way.

The four-year contracts between BART and its two biggest unions — Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 — are set to expire June 30. Talks between the unions — which represent workers such as mechanics, station agents and train operators — and the agency about a new deal
officially began Monday.

In 2009, when the agency negotiated its last pacts with the two unions, the groups threatened to strike on numerous occasions, a work stoppage that would have shut down the BART system. Eventually, the sides agreed to a deal that included $100 million in savings for the agency over four years. As a result, no workers went on strike.

Both of the unions released statements Monday. SEIU 1021 said it would push for increased safety measures for its workers and an end to the austerity measures imposed on employees as part of the 2009 deal. The union noted that its members haven’t received a pay increase in four years, despite the improving local economy.

Judging by their news releases, union anxieties about the talks are already high.

“BART traditionally vilifies its own workforce and politicizes negotiations, sometimes to the point of urging riders to confront workers on the job to accept their contract terms,” Antonette Bryant, president of ATU 1555, said in a release.

BART also issued a news release Monday, saying that workers in both unions are set to receive a 1 percent raise this year.

“BART must plan for the long term,” said Grace Crunican, the agency’s general manager. “This year’s labor negotiations will be focused on bargaining a fair contract for our hard-working employees as well as ensuring the long-term financial health and sustainability of our system.”

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