June 29--The union representing Muni's transit operators says it has reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract. The deal, if ratified by members, would spare the Bay Area from the threat of yet another labor-related transit disruption.
Officials with Transport Workers Union Local 250-A confirmed a tentative agreement late Friday night, but would not offer any information on the contents of the deal other than to say they will present the terms to the union's members on Monday.
"Thanks to strong support of our membership and hard work at the negotiating table, we have reached a new tentative agreement," said Eric Williams, president of TWU Local 250-A.
Municipal Transportation Agency officials declined to confirm the tentative agreement or comment on the union's statement. But on Friday, the agency called a special Board of Directors meeting for Monday morning to discuss labor negotiations, rescind a previously disclosed contract offer and extend the deadline for a new labor agreement to an unspecified date.
"All I can say is that we look forward to finalizing the process as soon as possible," Paul Rose, an MTA spokesman, said Saturday.
With the operators' contract set to expire Monday, both sides talking tough away from the bargaining table and a three-day operators' sickout fresh in the minds of Muni riders, news of a tentative settlement comes as welcome news.
Strike is prohibited
Muni operators are prohibited from striking, as are all San Francisco city workers. But after they overwhelmingly rejected an earlier contract agreement May 30, hundreds of drivers called in sick.
The sickout, which union officials insist they did not organize or sanction, forced the transit agency to cancel about two-thirds of its bus, streetcar and Metro runs and all cable car service on the first day. Many Muni riders reported having to wait up to an hour for a bus, and many more walked, biked or took taxis or ride services to their destinations.
While more drivers reported to work the next two days, the transit system was still hobbled by what was reportedly a grassroots protest by operators. MTA officials and the Board of Supervisors took a hard line against the protest, threatening not to pay workers who called in sick unless they presented a doctor's note and filing legal complaints against the union for violating the City Charter and labor law.
The sickout -- and accompanying commuter headaches -- came less than a year after a pair of BART strikes stranded many Bay Area transit riders, snarled freeways and prompted calls for bans on transit worker strikes. Those proposals, however, seemed to lose much of their appeal once the trains started running. Attempts at legislation died in Sacramento, and an East Bay Assembly candidate who ran on a campaign to ban BART strikes failed to get enough votes to make the November general election.
Negotiations with Muni operators resumed after the sickout, but remained tense. Union officials refused to enter an arbitration process adopted by voters in 2010. MTA officials threatened to withhold raises, stop collecting union dues and eliminate grievances if an agreement was not reached by Monday, June 30.
At an MTA board meeting Tuesday, a group of operators and union representatives lambasted the agency for stating publicly that it appreciated its drivers while trying to cut their pay.
"What you're saying here is totally insulting," Williams said. "This is a calculated attack on the biggest minority group of employees in the city. If you really cared, you would give us a fair contract."
The contract offer rejected by operators would have required them to contribute 7.5 percent to their pension plans but offered a 5.05 percent pay increase to compensate. It also offered a 3.25 percent raise on July 1 and a raise of between 2.25 percent and 3.25 percent in 2015. Union representatives said the offer amounted to a pay cut, but MTA officials described it as reasonable.
Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: @ctuan
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