The BART Board of Directors sent a clear message to its unions Thursday not to expect board intervention -- or a lot more money on the table -- when major negotiations resume next week.
The two sides have not had a joint bargaining session since Aug. 11 when Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a 60-day cooling-off period. This week, BART met separately with its two largest unions to bargain over ancillary issues unique to their members. But a joint session with the unions to discuss the big issues -- pay, pension and health insurance costs -- won't take place until Monday.
At the board meeting Thursday, Director James Fang of San Francisco tried and failed to get directors to steer at least $5.7 million more to its union workers, who are threatening to strike again if a deal is not reached before 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 10. His motion died after failing to get a second.
While the governor has said he wants to avoid a second BART strike, it is unclear what more he could do to stop one. He has already persuaded both sides to return to the bargaining tables voluntarily once, ordered a seven-day investigation and issued the 60-day cooling-off period, during which strikes and lockouts are prohibited.
Fang questioned Carter Mau, BART's executive manager of budget and planning, about the $5.7 million in operating funds left over once the books were balanced after the end of the fiscal year in June and about the value of the offer BART officials say they put on the bargaining table before the cooling-off period.
That offer includes a 10 percent raise over four years but also calls for increased employee contributions to their pension and health insurance plans. Mau said the proposal would cost the district about $24 million over four years.
Fang said the board should put the extra operating funds toward its employees. BART's staff suggested it be used for replacing elevator floors rotted by urine, repairing a fire-damaged substation in Richmond, buying more portable radios, stabilizing a slipping hillside along BART tracks and studying improvements at the 16th Street Mission Station.
Fang, who described himself as the lone director interested in recognizing employees for their contributions, said they had gone four years without raises under the last contract.
"I'm not for giving them all they want, but there has to be some fairness and equity," Fang said.
With Fang failing to find a supportive colleague, directors instead approved the plan to spend the $5.7 million on the improvements recommended by the staff.
Gabriel Haaland, a BART employee, thanked Fang for his efforts and pleaded with the board to direct the transit agency's negotiators to be more reasonable.
"I'd like you to recognize that not only are trains important, but people are important, too," he said.
Later in the meeting, a handful of union members spoke, also urging the board to get involved. A couple dozen workers held up signs declaring their support for their bargaining teams, which have proposed raises of roughly 21.5 percent over three years.
Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: @ctuan
Copyright 2013 - San Francisco Chronicle