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November 26, 2013 > Transit agency OKs deal without key provision

Transit agency OKs deal without key provision

By Terry Collins Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP), The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit board on Thursday approved a tentative contract deal after stripping out a disputed family medical leave provision that officials with its two largest unions have said they want in the deal.

Board members voted 8-1 to approve the deal minus the provision that would give workers six weeks of paid annual leave to care for sick family members. The transit agency said the provision could cost $44 million over four years if a third of union workers take six-week leaves each year.

Last week, BART officials announced the provision had been inadvertently included in the proposed contract due to an error.

The parties agreed to a tentative deal on Oct. 21 after six months of agonizing negotiations and two strikes that caused headaches for hundreds of thousands of riders of the nation's fifth-largest commuter rail system.

ÒWe hope the unions will take the agreement minus the six weeks of additional paid leave that was mistakenly included in the final document, back to their members,Ó BART board president Tom Radulovich said. ÒSimply 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.Ó

The decision creates uncertainty about the fate of the tentative contract. Representatives from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 called the move by the board an unfair labor practice.

The unions intend to discuss the matter with attorneys and members to determine the next step.

ÒI am deeply disappointed in the actions that the board took,Ó ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant said after the vote. ÒTo take this action on something that was not presented to our members speaks to the fact that they are not adhering to the negotiation process.Ó

She later told the board that it was Òa slap in the face to the negotiation process.Ó

``You vote on a contract in its entirety Ð up or down. We expected the board to step and act with integrity and credibility,'' Bryant said. ``We did not get to pick or choose what we wanted to leave in or to leave out.''

The unions did not mention the possibility of a third strike this year.

Zakhary Mallet, the lone BART board member who voted down the tentative deal, said it was too costly and shortsighted.

``I feel for the negotiations we went too far, too quickly,'' Mallet said. ``I don't find it financially sustainable''

The unions went on strike for nearly five days in July and for another four days last month, angering commuters who had to find alternative ways to work.

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.

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