Friday, October 18, 2013

BART strike, statement by board president Tom Radulovich, 10/14/13

...We feel like we have reached the limit, the outer limits financially, of what we’re prepared to offer to settle this…we’ve been at this in total for 150 days at this point, and we think it’s time for the union leadership to let us know, to let the people of the Bay Area know, whether they’re going to take an offer to their membership. It is the middle of October. AC Transit negotiations have been going on during the same time. There have been two offers taken to their membership, but not yet, in these negotiations, even though we are months beyond the deadline, have we seen a single offer taken to the membership. The reason we want that to happen is we think we’ve got a great offer on the table.

We’ve got a 12 percent wage increase that they’re going to get regardless. We have also built into this a bonus. If BART ridership and revenue is growing faster than we project, we’re going to share a portion of that with our riders. They can get up to $1,000 a year additional. That’s about 1-1/4 percent of pay for the average paid BART worker. So the economics of these deals are important. The other thing that’s very very important to us are work rules. We have a very well-paid workforce. We offer great benefits.

What we need from them are a set of work rules that allow them to work efficiently and productively, deliver the kind of quality service that our customers need. One of the big issues for us is what’s called beneficial past practices. The beneficial past practices clause says that if we allow workers in any part of the District to do something – you know, you give them a perk, you allow them to park their car in this area or whatever, you give them half a day off – suddenly that right then goes to everybody in their unit. So this is a way of actually increasing costs, really, and limiting management’s flexibility, that has become crippling for the District. We’re very unique in this beneficial past practices clause. Few people in the world, if anyone, still has it. I’ll give you an example. If you have been faxing a report to people, we can’t ask you to email it anymore without a mutual agreement. The union would need to come in and say okay, we’re not faxing anymore, we’re emailing it. So you could imagine this building up, over the decades that BART’s been existent. It becomes a very, very expensive proposition, really gets in of our providing the service we need to provide.

Another important issue for us is the 40-hour work week. Currently at BART, you can call in sick or not show up on the day you’re scheduled to work, then come in on a regular day off, and get overtime, even though you haven’t worked 40 hours. Now most of our workers don’t abuse this, but some do, and the workers that don’t, and the riders, are paying for this. Now we need to clear this out of our contract. We want to give them a fantastically good contract, and that’s what we’ve offered, but we also need our workers to meet us part way, and get rid of some of the things that get in the way of BART providing the service that we need to provide. We understand the anxiety everyone’s feeling right now. The last thing everybody wants is a BART strike. We don’t feel that’s necessary. We’re going to keep talking about this. We’d like our unions to do as other unions have done – take an offer to their workers without going on strike, but I just have to say personally, and there have been a lot of flyers out there saying call your BART director, put out by the unions, the calls I’m getting are about three to one saying you guys need to hold the line, and so folks know what’s at stake here, but they’re asking us to hold the line and they’re asking us to be firm. So we’re trying to do that, and at the same time, trying to live up to everybody’s desire that we not have a strike…if the unions can get to these same savings, we’re all ears on that. All weekend, we were trying to take their best ideas and put them into our proposal. Any time they suggested real savings to us, we embraced those…