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ATU issues strike notice after BART imposes employment terms

Yesterday, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) announced its intention to launch a strike at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) at the close of service on Sunday night after the agency’s board voted to impose employment terms on ATU-represented workers.

The ATU, which represents about 900 BART train operators and station agents, recently rejected a tentative labor agreement and negotiations had reached an impasse, BART officials said in a prepared statement. The agency recently reached agreements with the Service Employees International Union and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and members of those unions ratified the four-year contracts.

BART’s board voted unanimously yesterday to adopt employment terms and conditions for ATU-represented workers. ATU members will continue to receive their base salaries, but health care costs will be capped, contributions to a secondary pension plan will be eliminated, paid holidays will be reduced and worker schedules will be changed. The terms will remain in effect until a new agreement is reached.

BART is trying to eliminate an estimated $310 million four-year budget deficit amid a decline in ridership, state transit funding and sales tax revenue. The agency’s board has set a target of $100 million in labor-cost savings over the next four years.

“ATU’s rejection of the tentative agreement meant we could not meet the $100 million labor-cost savings target we set more than four months ago through the negotiation process,” said BART President Thomas Blalock. “This is why this board was left with no other choice.”

A strike could be averted if BART’s board rescinded its decision or the two sides negotiate a satisfactory agreement by Sunday night, ATU officials said.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged the parties to return to the negotiating table and reach an agreement before any strike takes place.

“Both sides need to resolve their disputes and come to an agreement before taking drastic action that will have an immediate effect on the daily lives of so many Californians,” he said in a statement issued yesterday.

The State Mediation & Conciliation Service is standing by to facilitate negotiations and help the parties reach an agreement, said Schwarzenegger.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/14/2009