BART Workers Strike Over "Work Rules"

For the second time in four months, during which time negotiations had continued, BART workers went on strike Friday morning, creating huge challenges for the 400,000 commuters who rely on it daily in four Bay Area counties.

The impasse in the negotiations was over work rules, not salaries, or health and pension contributions write John Wildermuth, Michael Cabanatuan and Jill Tucker.

When BART and union representatives talk about "work rules" leading to the breakdown in negotiations, they're primarily referring to a clause in their contract that refers to past practices, or the way things have been done previously. To change a past practice, BART's contracts require mutual agreement between management and the unions which can be hard to get.

Wildermuth, Cabanatuan and Tucker explain that work rules pertain to such issues as to whether to use email, which management wants, or continue to file reports by fax, "sending paycheck stubs to each work location electronically instead of hand-delivering them," and "making changes in the way it schedules workers or adds extra service on holidays," said Alicia Trost, a BART spokeswoman.

While it might seem 'silly' to go on strike over allowing BART management access to modern technology, unions saw the issue from a different perspective.

Union officials said there are reasons to keep past practices alive, including preventing BART management from making punitive work assignments to employees who have filed workplace complaints.

Workers initially went on strike on July 1st for four and one-half days. They were set to strike again on August 5th when Gov. Jerry Brown intervened by imposing a 60-day cooling-off period, a one-time option. By coincidence, the governor just intervened on Oct. 16 by imposing that same 60-day cooling-off period on another Bay Area transit system, Alameda-Contra Costa (AC) Transit District whose workers were set to strike. AC Transit's buses transport almost 174,000 riders daily.

"The Bay Area Rapid Transit system, the nation's fifth largest, normal serves 400,000 riders each day", write Scott Martin and Doug Stanglin in USA TODAY.

In addition to limited BART charter buses operating out of nine East Bay stations, AC Transit "will supplement transbay lines to San Francisco with extra service to the extent possible", according to its rider alert. The San Francisco Bay Ferry "will have 12 boats (as opposed to eight on a regular weekday) in service, including two on loan from Golden Gate Ferry", according to its press release (PDF).

Full Story: BART workers go on strike

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