BART's shutdown from computer glitch the latest woe for transit agency

In recent months, the BART system has seen two strikes shut down service and had two workers killed on tracks.

Now BART is facing its latest set of problems: a computer glitch that shut down transit service during the Friday morning commute and more trouble reaching a new contract deal with workers.

“BART has been so inconsistent this year, (it's been) a bad year for them,” commuter Jill Ann Cosentino, 35, of Oakland said Friday as she headed to her event planning job in San Francisco.

The nation's fifth-largest commuter rail system, with an average weekday ridership of 400,000, BART service has been shut down twice when more than 2,300 members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 walked off their jobs for several days amid contract talks.

The two strikes in July and October snarled commutes in the region, as people turned to crowded buses, ferries and roadways as alternatives.

During the second strike, two BART workers were killed by a train operated by an employee undergoing training. The parties soon returned to the bargaining table and reached a tentative deal on Oct. 21.

That deal hit a snag on Thursday when BART's board approved the agreement without a key Family Medical Leave Act provision that would provide six weeks of paid leave to care for sick family members. The transit agency said the provision could cost $44 million over four years if one-third of union workers take six-week leaves each year.

“Simply put, (BART) 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,” BART President Tom Radulovich said.

Union representatives called the board's vote an unfair labor practice and said it would be discussed with attorneys and members to determine its next steps.

“That is not the contract we voted on. That is not the contract that we took to our members,” ATU Local 1555 president Antonette Bryant said. “Our members didn't have the luxury to pick and choose what they wanted to vote on.”

Last week, BART officials announced that the family leave provision had been inadvertently included in the proposed contract due to an error by a temporary employee.

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