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Unions still unsatisfied with BART proposals

By Ritu Bhatnagar Associated Press Writer
Saturday September 01, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO — BART directors have presented a proposal to workers’ unions, offering a wage and benefits increase of about 20 percent over the next four years, but union members said Friday it’s not enough to keep them off the picket lines. 

“This offer will not settle a contract,” said Robert Smith, president/business agent for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, one of three unions in negotiations with BART as the Tuesday strike deadline nears. 

Tim Reagan, spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 790, said the union presented a counteroffer to BART on Friday. 

BART officials say they hope their offer will avert a strike so that “people don’t have to face the anxiety about coming back from (Labor Day weekend) not knowing” if BART is operational, said BART Director Dan Richard. 

BART President Willie Kennedy said she is prepared to further negotiate with the unions. 

The four-year-contract offer provides workers with a 4.5 percent wage increase each year for the first three years. In the fourth year, BART would offer a 3 percent increase in the beginning of the year and a 2 percent increase by midyear. 

“The offer protects employees from health care increases, maintains existing employee benefits, and increases contributions to the pension-savings plan,” Kennedy said. 

Smith said a number of issues were still left to be settled, including work rules and the pension fund. 

BART spokesman Mike Healey said management is prepared to negotiate through the weekend, and that if the unions give the go-ahead, Tuesday’s deadline can be extended. 

But as talks continue, BART commuters are looking at alternatives. 

“This will really affect my commute — I’m thinking about sharing a ride with a friend,” said Krys Upstil, who rides BART between the East Bay and San Francisco. “I’ll be looking at AC Transit, but that will probably be really crowded.” 

Matthew Mitchelson, who commutes from Concord to Oakland, where he attends Laney College, said he will likely take his car. 

“I’d have to leave my house at 5 a.m.,” Mitchelson said. “It usually takes 45 minutes driving when BART is running, but will probably take two hours with BART shut down.”