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Rail News: Passenger Rail

ATU rejects latest BART agreement


A group of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) employees have rejected the agency's latest contract offer in a July 14 vote. Seventy-six percent of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) members voted, all against the four-year proposal.

"[The proposal] would have caused unnecessary hardship to BART workers and their families, and resulted in unstaffed stations throughout the system and less frequent, more crowded and dirtier trains for riders," said ATU President Jesse Hunt in a prepared statement.

ATU — which represents about 900 BART train operators, station agents and other front-line workers — has proposed increasing eligibility requirements of both workers and executives for long-term medical retirement benefits from five to 15 years. ATU also proposed furloughs and a cap on medical benefits. The proposal could save BART more than $760 million, according to ATU.

Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will vote on the same contract proposal July 16. The proposal "achieves the objectives we laid out — preserving employee's base salaries, capping medical costs while still offering full medical care for the entire family and eliminating wasteful work rules that often cause the district to pay excessive overtime," said BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger in a prepared statement, adding that the proposal offers a small wage increase in the last year of the contract.

Following the outcome of the vote by SEIU — which represents mechanics and maintenance workers — ATU will work to continue negotiations with BART, the union said. Despite the ATU's rejection to BART's offer, there is no immediate threat of a strike, according to BART.

BART has been negotiating contracts with its five labor unions since April 1 to address the agency's financial challenges. During that period, a four year-deficit projected at $250 million has grown by approximately $60 million due to lower-than-expected ridership and sales tax returns.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/15/2009