Muni contract talks stay off track for a second day

Union leaders representing Muni operators, who walked away from negotiations with Muni management Monday, did not return on Tuesday, saying they’re waiting for “a better offer.”

The current contract expires June 30.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is calling for stricter discipline for problematic drivers and scheduling changes, among other concessions from the approximately 1,900 men and women who operate Muni’s streetcars, buses and cable cars.

But with The City facing a budget deficit of more than $300 million, top officials for the public-transportation agency say there is nothing in the way of salary and benefit compensation to bring to the bargaining table.

“Only a handful of operators are problems and we want to make sure they are held accountable,” MTA head Nathaniel Ford said.

“We’re looking at improving customer service, accidents, attendance and customer complaints,” he said. “This isn’t all about discipline; this is about getting our service to run on time.”

Transport Workers Union Local 250-A President Irwin Lum said that when he heard Ford’s proposal Monday afternoon, he walked out of the office. Negotiations have been at a standstill ever since.

“We’re waiting for them to call us with a better offer,” Lum said.

Management is coming with a whole shopping list of things they want taken away, but they’re not offering anything, Lum said.

“That’s not how you negotiate anything,” he said. “Times are not only bad for the city, but they’re hard for the workers as well.”

In October 2007, dozens of Muni supervisors and inspectors participated in a mass sickout over a disagreement about a scheduled wage increase.

Lum said there were no plans for mass sickouts.

“I think our operators recognize the importance that this system means to The City, and I don’t expect those kinds of actions,” Ford said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has also become involved in the talks, according to spokesman Joe Arellano.

“He believes that a deal can still be brokered,” Arellano said. “Negotiating in a tough budget year isn’t easy, but we anticipate that a mutually beneficial agreement will be reached.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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