Feb. 14--BART's tempestuous year of labor negotiations, which cost the transit agency $8.4 million and an immeasurable amount of public confidence, will end up costing as much as $225,000 more.
The Board of Directors decided Thursday, on a 5-4 vote, to hire a consultant to investigate what went wrong in the 10 months of bargaining, which resulted in two strikes and a botched deal that needed to be renegotiated.
Director James Fang, who leads a committee looking into the labor troubles, encouraged the hiring of a consultant and likened the labor troubles to the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant on a BART platform in 2009. BART hired consultants to investigate the shooting and its own police force, leading to major changes at the transit agency.
"This ranks right up there with Oscar Grant in my opinion," said Fang.
Nobody on the board objected to hiring a consultant, but some thought the committee should focus the investigation before setting a price and voted against the proposal. Fang said he hoped to speed the process by setting a maximum price while the committee continues to work on what, specifically, the consultant should examine.
Directors Robert Raburn, Thomas Blalock, Joel Keller and Zakhary Mallett joined Fang in approving the consultant hiring and spending limit. Tom Radulovich, Gail Murray, John McPartland and Rebecca Salzman were opposed.
The directors will still need to vote on contracts. No time frame has been set.
The consultant will have plenty to examine. BART negotiations began in April but didn't get serious until just before the June 30 strike deadline. The transit agency's unions went on strike for 4 1/2 days before Gov. Jerry Brown persuaded them to resume service and negotiations for a month.
No deal was made, so the governor ordered a 60-day cooling-off period. Still no contract, so BART workers walked out again. On the second day, two nonunion workers were struck and killed by a train being operated by a management trainee. The two sides restarted talks and reached a tentative agreement on Oct. 21.
Union members ratified the pact, which included 15.4 percent in raises over four years, but BART directors, claiming the deal included a generous family leave benefit they didn't intend to include, ratified the agreement minus the section they didn't like. The unions sued, and negotiations resumed -- again. The two sides finally came to an agreement on Dec. 22.
Chris Finn, a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 bargaining team and its new president, said he hoped the consultant would take a broad look at the district's labor relations troubles and offered to cooperate.
"I am working to prevent 2013 from happening again," he said. "It was a low point in negotiations."
Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @ctuan
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