Pact would give BART workers more than 20.5 percent raises

By Ritu Bhatnagar Associated Press Writer
Wednesday September 05, 2001

OAKLAND — The tentative agreement that averted a possible BART strike will give the transit system’s workers wage and pension increases of more than 20.5 percent over four years, a union leader said Tuesday. 

“It’s not an overly generous proposal by the district,” said Bob Smith, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, ”but we’re satisfied.” 

Union members, who were prepared to walk off the job at midnight Wednesday, now are expected to vote on the new contract Sunday or Monday. 

The unions were seeking a 20.5 percent wage increase over three years, and BART was offering an 18.5 percent raise over four years. Smith would not say exactly how much higher than 20.5 percent the agreed-upon raise would be. 

“In working hard to come to an agreement to serve the public, both parties found they needed to move to come to a settlement,” said Dorothy Dugger, BART’s deputy general manager. 

BART officials would not comment on the terms of the contract. 

BART management and unions reached a tentative agreement early Tuesday morning, averting a 2,800-worker strike. 

“I’m certainly very hopeful that the members will ratify this agreement,” Smith said. 

Unions and BART officials credited the tentative settlement in large part to the intervention of Bay Area legislators. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and state Sens. Don Perata, D-Oakland, and Tom Torlakson, D-Martinez, stepped into negotiations Monday night in an effort to prevent a strike that could have crippled the area’s already nightmarish commute. 

“They brought a new dynamic to the table, which helped us reach the tentative framework for a settlement,” said BART spokesman Mike Healy. “We’re relieved we have come to an agreement, and we’re pleased a strike has been averted.” 

BART’s last strike was in 1997. Perata said it would have been damaging to “the public’s goodwill if there was a second strike in four years.” 

BART initially offered an 11.5 percent pay increase over four years, but boosted it on Friday to 18.5 percent. Over the weekend, the unions reduced their request for improved salaries and benefits from 27 percent over three years to 20.5 percent. 

Commuters riding BART on Tuesday morning said they are relieved they may not have to resort to such alternatives as shuttle buses, ferries and carpools, had there been a strike. About 335,000 people use BART each weekday. 

“It would have been a slow commute,” said Jack Glaser, a professor of public policy and psychology who rides BART from San Francisco to his job at University of California, Berkeley.