Anyone who was here in 2013 and relied on BART to commute to and from the East Bay knows how painful a BART strike can be. That strike only lasted four days, but it succeeded in snarling traffic and creating deep animosity and distrust between BART's management and its labor unions. But one good thing to come out of the strike was a report that analyzed the negotiations and set forth some new ways of approaching impending contract renewals. So, ahead of the next contract expiration in mid-2017, the two sides have already hammered a tentative deal for wage increases and ridership bonuses that will hopefully stick, and it puts BART service in 2017 in a good position to avoid any labor-related disruptions.
BART teased that they had big news today, and according to a press release, "Both sides are dedicated to rebuilding the system as a major priority. That shared commitment has motivated a series of conversations that have taken place between BART’s labor leaders and General Manager Grace Crunican."
The new tentative agreement would give workers annual pay increases tied to projected inflation of 2.5%, 2.5%, 2.75% and 2.75% in each year from 2017 to 2021. Pensions remain a sticking point and a point for later discussion, following the results of some pending litigation, and there is also the possibility of ridership-based bonuses.
And it looks like this is the last we may hear about the deal-making for a while after both sides bad-mouthed each other throughout some tense negotiations in 2013, leading to some widespread anti-union sentiment among BART riders as well as anger toward management in general, the 2013 Collective Bargaining Report urged both sides to limit their comments in the media until union leadership can explain the deal to its members, and the unions have had an opportunity to vote on it.
The report did recommend that ground rules and information sharing about the 2017 contract begin early, and per the release, it sounds as though the unions again have an upper hand given all the other problems BART is facing with service. "During these demanding times, when BART’s reliability rate is slipping due to age and crowding, our focus must be on supporting the expertise of some of the best employees in the business."
Of course none of this is final, and until those union votes occur, which may not happen until after the pension issue is settled, this contract will remain an unsettled matter. But let's hope that the summer of 2017 doesn't echo the summer of 2013, with months of grandstanding in the media and stalled negotiating. Because seriously, that got tired fast.