CA: Muni Officials Expect Normal Service Monday in Wake of Sickout

June 09--Muni officials are cautiously optimistic that drivers won't plunge the city into commuting chaos Monday in the wake of last week's three days of dread caused by an operator sickout.

Contract negotiations, however, stalled over the weekend after representatives of the Municipal Transportation Agency and Transport Workers Local 250-A called off a Saturday arbitration session set by the city charter.

"We haven't heard any rumors, but based on preliminary information, we should expect normal service for Monday's commute," said Muni spokesman Paul Rose.

Unfortunately for officials and commuters, sickouts are not very predictable. One reason the strategy is used in negotiations is sickouts almost always come as a surprise.

Last week's sickout had service reduced by two-thirds Monday with some riders left high and dry for more than an hour in some areas. More drivers steadily showed up for work Tuesday and Wednesday, and by Thursday the sickout was effectively over.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed legal charges Wednesday with the state Public Employment Relations Board. He said the union privately urged its members to defeat the tentative agreement and then encouraged operators to call in sick.

All city employees are prohibited from striking, but Proposition G, approved by voters in 2010, added to the City Charter new rules pertaining to Muni alone. One rule altered the arbitration process, so the arbitrator cannot rule against the MTA's proposals unless the union can prove that its interests outweigh "the public interest in efficient and reliable transit."

If the union fails to approve a mediated agreement or participate in arbitration by the June 15 deadline, Rose said, the current contract will remain in effect for the next two years and operators will go without raises.

Evan Sernoffsky is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: esernoffsky@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @EvanSernoffsky

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