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Can a strike be averted? BART talks to resume at 1 p.m.

By dcuff
Saturday, August 15th, 2009 at 10:44 am in BART, rail.

Negotiations between BART and its second biggest union will resume at 1 p.m today in an effort to avert a planned strike Monday morning, Jesse Hunt, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union announced this morning.

This will be the first face to face negotiations since the union for station agents and train operators announced Thursday that they plan a strike in response to the BART board’s decision to unilaterally impose a contract on the union.

Union members have said they won’t show up for work Monday morning unless BART lifts the contract imposition. BART officials have they won’t lift the imposition unless the union leaders reach a contract settlement with the transit agency and then ratify it.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson said Friday that the ATU leadership embraced the last contract settlement in public, but then trashed it and called it “ugly” when communicating with union members. That criticism, Johnson said, contributed to ATU members rejecting the tentative settlement by a nearly 2-1 margin Monday, while two other BART unions overwhelmingly ratified a similar contract.  

 At a press conference that began about 11:15 a.m. today, Johnson confirmed that talks will resume at 1 p.m. in Oakland.

He said he hopes the station operators and train agents will call off the strike and stay at the bargaining table.

“ATU can be the heroes by announcing they will not strike,” he said. “If they strike, it’s on them…They can stay or they can go.”

He reaffirmed BART management’s position that a contract imposition was necessary to reduce labor costs and stop the financial bleeding at the transit district in the recession.

Two other BART employee unions earlier this week ratified contracts that freeze wages for four years and make concessions in benefits and work rules, Johnson noted. BART imposed a similar deal on transit system managers. Train fares were raised July 1.

“Everyone is contributing to the solution, and they (ATU members) are asking for a pass,” he said.

Hunt has asserted that station operators and train operators are being asked to assume a disproportionate burden of work rule and financial concessions among three BART unions.

BART officials say that ATU members are being asked to give up more because they earn a disproportionately high share of BART’s $29 million annual overtime pay. BART asserts the union has balked at agreeing to end wasteful work rules that drive up overtime.

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