Despite union approval of Muni contract, some members not fully satisfied

After a one-week delay to clarify financial impacts, Transport Workers Union Local 250-A members have ratified a new labor contract, but approval was narrow among transit operators, with some employees saying they are not completely satisfied.

While Muni fare inspectors accepted their contract 23-0, transit operators ratified their contract with 634-485 votes, a 57 percent approval. Of the seven transit operation divisions, cable car most overwhelmingly rejected the contract 90-22. The other two divisions that voted for rejection were Kirkland and Green, with 86-73 and 78-73 in opposition, respectively.

The ratified agreement gives transit operators and fare inspectors a 14.25 percent wage increase over three years that breaks down to a 9.5 percent raise intended to offset a 7.5 percent contribution toward worker pensions, and a 4.75 percent cost-of-living increase.

Those terms remained unchanged since July 7, when union members were originally scheduled to vote. But under the agreement that was set for vote on July 7, operators hired after July 2011 would have paid 5 percent toward their pensions, unlike those hired prior to that, explained Paul Rose, spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which governs Muni. The new agreement adjusts the wage formula so that all operators, regardless of their hire date, have the same wage within their classification and all operators will eventually pay 7.5 percent into pension by the end of the contract, he said.

<p>”We determined after review that the agreement would have resulted in different hourly wage rates for employees based on their hire date and that was not the intent. We clarified that our intention was to have the same rate formula for all operators,” he said of the change made since July 7.

The clarification “did change some of the fiscal impact” of the contract, said SFMTA Transportation Director Ed Reiskin, who disclosed the deal Tuesday and called it “a very good agreement for both the agency and the [union].”

Union member P.J. Williams, who drives in the Green division, told The San Francisco Examiner the 634-485 vote was as close as he expected, and that there was division among members caused by “a lot of confusion” over what operators of different seniorities would get.

“From what I was hearing, a lot of people voted yes throughout the seven divisions because they said, 'Well, if we vote no, we're not prepared to fight, so it's one of those situations,” he said. Referencing future contract talks, he said, “Why fight in the next three weeks when we could be preparing for the battle that's to come?”

But TWU Local 250-A President Eric Williams' statement on the ratification projected a different sentiment.

“Our members have spoken,” he said in the emailed statement. “We worked hard at the bargaining table and our members maintained extraordinary solidarity throughout the negotiating process.”

The agreement, which will go before the SFMTA board of directors for approval July 30, “keeps our public-transportation system on a sustainable fiscal path,” Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement.

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