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BART calls for renewed union talks

  • Bay Area Rapid Transit passengers wait for a BART train to depart the Fruitvale station Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

OAKLAND — San Francisco transit officials are calling for a return to the bargaining table, saying an expensive provision was "erroneously" included in a labor contract that settled a union dispute that had caused two recent strikes.

Late Friday, the contract with San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit's two largest unions appeared to be facing uncertainty as the agency said that it was seeking the renewed talks.

After a closed-door meeting during the afternoon to discuss the issue and review its likely costs, BART officials said a family medical leave provision giving its 2,300 union workers up to six weeks of paid time off each year would be too expensive.

On Thursday, BART officials announced that the provision had been "inadvertently" included in the agreement, which was signed off by transit and union negotiators in October.

The board, which is set to vote on the contract Nov. 21, has now ordered the agency's general manager to restart talks with representatives from the unions — Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021. A new chief negotiator is expected to be announced.

"We are not comfortable with the potential liability that could result from the adoption of this contract provision," the board said in a statement issued Friday night. It was "never the District's intention to include the disputed Family Medical Leave Act proposal in the contract," it added, indicating the medical leave provision was "erroneously" included in the contract language by an unnamed temporary employee in July.

By BART's accounting, 7.4% of its ATU and SEIU workers have taken leaves for family care, at an average of 4.3 weeks and costing about $1.4 million a year. But in its statement Friday, the agency suggested it is worried up to 33% of the union employees might take six weeks of paid leave under the new provision, costing the agency $10.5 million.

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