Muni expects contract talks to get in gear

Claiming that a “cooling-off” period is now drawing to a close, Muni Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said stalled contract negotiations with union officials representing transit operators will pick up again Monday or Tuesday.

The two sides haven’t met since June 10, after bargaining broke down on several issues — in particular the operator union’s request for increased wages and benefits under reworked contracts. Representatives of the Transport Workers Union Local 250A — which includes approximately 1,900 Muni operators — walked away from the table.

Ford told The Examiner on Friday that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was too cash-strapped to meet the demands of the union officials.

Other sticking points in negotiations are related to employee scheduling and discipline. Ford said he wants the SFMTA to have more ability to punish operators who are frequently absent or who are involved in accidents.

Despite the differences, Ford said he was confident an agreement would be reached by June 30, the expiration date for the current transit operators’ contract.

“We both want to resolve this issue,” Ford said.

If an agreement is not reached by June 30, transit employees will continue to work under the old contract while negotiations continue, but any amendments would go into effect retroactively to July 1, according to a Muni representative.

Irwin Lum, spokesman for the operator’s union, did not respond to repeated calls this week for comment.

In October, dozens of Muni supervisors and inspectors participated in a mass sickout over a disagreement about a scheduled wage increase. Last week, Lum told The Examiner there were no plans for mass sickouts.

Muni operators interviewed by The Examiner on Friday — all of whom wished to remain anonymous — said they were in the dark about the contract negotiations.

In November, city voters approved Proposition A, allocating at least $26 million to the agency and lifting a salary cap. Advocates said that would give Muni bargaining leverage to gain more authority to reform personnel policies.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com  

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