Tensions Between BART and Unions Escalate, Transit Strike Looming
After another full day of negotiations Wednesday, it's fair to say things between BART and its unions are getting worse, not better.
Flickr/wallyg BART negotiations are moving as fast as a BART train during a strike
That's based on the fact that both sides, after leaving the negotiating table last night, fired off statements to the press characterizing the mess with each side placing the blame on the other.
According to Cecille Isidro, representing SEIU 1021, BART's chief negotiator Tom Hock "called for an end to negotiations for the week" and instead insisted the two sides give it another 10 meetings to work this wage war out. There's 22 days left in the "cooling off" period which ends Oct. 10 at which point the unions could go on strike again.
No word on whether Hock was planning a vacation for the remaining 12 negotiating days in the cooling off period.
"Bargaining teams from BART's largest unions, SEIU 1021 and ATU 1555, have offered to continue bargaining every day of the week until October 10th, only to be denied by BART's Management and their Chief Negotiator Thomas Hock," Isidro said in a statement.
Earlier this week, the unions out forward a new proposal that proposes a 4.5 percent annual wage increase, or a 13.5 percent increase over a 3-year agreement. BART workers also are offering to pick up the cost of paying their own pensions in three increasing installments of 1.4 percent of salary in the first year, 2.8 percent in the second year, and 4.9 percent in the third year, through a pension swap. BART told the press it wasn't happy about this latest offer.
"We've waited 30 days for them to return to the bargaining table only to be faced with more delays," said Antonette Bryant, President of ATU 1555. "We've made a good faith effort and made significant movement in our latest counter-proposal. It's time for them to take this process seriously and not waste anymore precious time."
Now for BART's side of the story:
BART spokesman Rick Rice claims that BART management "is ready to meet at any time the mediator calls us to the table."
"Gaps in the calendar have nothing to do with BART's availability as we are available every day," he said. "There isn't a problem with the process -- there is a problem with the lack of willingness on the union's part in working towards the middle."
He went on to say that the union's latest offer is anything but "cost-saving," claiming that under this plan, the district will have to shell out nearly $150 million dollars for a four-year contract. "Even with their latest proposal, which only moved a sliver at best, we remain $112 million apart," Rice noted.
And finally, Rice said: "BART will meet every day, from now until a deal is reached, and we are 100 percent committed to avoiding a strike."
In short, both sides can't even agree about what they're disagreeing on.