Union, agency fail to see eye to eye

The existing pay scale and working conditions for Muni operators will likely be extended for another three years after union leaders and San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency officials failed to agree on a new contract.

Union members, who voted Tuesday afternoon, approved the contract extension by 82 percent of the rank-and-file, Muni officials said Wednesday. The contract is expected to go before the SFMTA board for final approval in mid-August, though the deadline could be extended.

“Over the course of a dozen meetings, SFMTA sought a variety of contract provisions describing work rules and other procedures, while the union primarily sought economic enhancement,” Muni spokesman Judson True said.

SFMTA head Nathaniel Ford had called for scheduling changes and stricter discipline for problematic drivers, among other concessions from Muni. However, The City’s budget wasn’t sufficient to enhance the workers’ pay or benefits in return, and talks went nowhere, Muni officials said.

If the contract is extended, Muni operators will receive their expected 2.2 percent raise, bringing the base hourly wage from $27.3050 to $27.9105. The increase will cost The City an estimated $3.3 million, which has already been accounted for in Muni’s budget, which was approved by the transit agency’s board in April and is currently before the city’s Board of Supervisors.

Under last year’s Proposition A, the base wage of Muni operators must be no less than the average of the two highest-paid transit agencies in the country — Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and Maryland’s Montgomery County Transit.

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s spokesman Nathan Ballard said Wednesday that improvements to Muni’s customer service would continue to be addressed.

“We see continuing improvement in safety, attendance and job performance. This contract lays a solid foundation for continuing those improvements. As we move forward with the Transit Effectiveness Project, we’ll see the reform process accelerate,” he said.

True said Muni’s management is finding ways to address job performance issues through current work rules.

But news of the agreement drew concern from San Francisco Supervisor Sean Elsbernd on Wednesday, who called for a review by the Board of Supervisors next week.

“I haven’t seen the contract, I’ve just heard about it. They haven’t briefed us, and they should,” Elsbernd said.

Though supervisors have no voting power over Muni labor contracts, Elsbernd said he wanted to be sure the agreement didn’t violate Proposition B, which requires city workers be subject to an 18-month wage freeze between July 2009 and January 2011 in exchange for increased pensions.

Transit Workers Local 250-A President Irwin Lum did not return calls for comment.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

New deal denied in favor of extending existing contract

Union leaders representing Muni operators and San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency officials failed to agree on a new contract. An outline of the contract extension:

82 percent: Approval rate by union members

2.2 percent: Raise for operators

$27.9105: New base hourly wage

$27.3050: Old base hourly wage

$3.3 million: Cost to The City

Source: SFMTA

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