SF: Muni Operators Ratify Contract

July 15--Muni operators on Monday ratified a new contract that guarantees three years of raises totaling 14.25 percent and requires payments into their pension plans. The deal, brokered by former Mayor Willie Brown, calms fears of another spontaneous protest like the three-day sickout that stalled the transit system in June.

Vote totals weren't immediately available. Voting took place at the bus and rail facilities where the transit system's bus, light-rail, streetcar and cable car operators report to work.

The tentative agreement put before operators includes 14.25 percent in raises over three years, enough to cover increased pension costs to the workers while also offering a pay boost. It differed from the initial agreement in that it extends the contract for a third year, including an additional 3 percent raise, and phases in the 7.5 percent that workers will pay into their own pensions.

Under the agreement, operators will receive a 9.5 percent salary increase, intended to offset the pension contribution, plus an additional 4.75 percent in raises. The raises and pension contributions would be spread across the three years of the contract with the first pay increase -- 1.75 percent -- coming in October but the first of three 2.5 percent pension contributions not coming due until October 2015, at which time operators would receive another 4.68 percent raise.

In announcing the deal two weeks ago, Municipal Transportation Agency officials credited Brown, saying his involvement as a mediator was key. The former mayor, who writes a Sunday column for The Chronicle, wrote that he became involved at the request of Mayor Ed Lee, who wanted to avert another sickout, and at the insistence of the union.

Brown said he refused to bargain with the large committees surrounding the bargaining table.

"I took one look and said, 'Now I don't want to insult any of you, but I don't negotiate by committee. I'm going to step out for five minutes, and when I come back, I only want to see three over here and three over there. Then we'll talk.'

"It took five days, but we got a deal."

The earlier contract offer, which members rejected by a vote of 1,198-47, offered 11.25 percent in raises over two years and also required a 7.5 percent pension contribution. Union members argued that the pension payments would have eroded their raises, but MTA officials contended the offer was a fair deal.

Chronicle staff writer Kale Williams contributed to this report.

Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: mcabanatuan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ctuan

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