BART and its two biggest labor unions returned to the bargaining table Wednesday to make another attempt to resolve a dispute over a contract provision that calls for employees to receive up to six weeks of paid family medical leave annually.
Members of Service Employees Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and foreworkers, voted on Nov. 1 to approve a tentative agreement that includes the paid medical leave provision.
But shortly after that, BART management said it hadn't intended to include the provision in the agreement and claimed it had been mistakenly inserted by a temporary employee and that they had only discovered it while conducting a final review before submitting the agreement to BART's board of directors.
On Nov. 21, the BART directors approved the contract without the paid family medical leave provision and told union leaders to take the agreement back to their members for another vote without that provision.
Leaders of SEIU Local 1021 and ATU 1555 refused management's request and instead filed a lawsuit two weeks ago alleging that the transit agency's directors had acted unlawfully and must honor the terms of the tentative agreement.
BART and leaders of the two unions met for two days last week without success but are meeting again Wednesday and Thursday in Oakland to try to resolve their differences.
Members of a smaller union, American Federation of State, County and Local Municipal Employees Union Local 3993, which represents about 210 middle managers, voted two weeks ago to approve the contract without the paid family medical leave provision.
BART directors are scheduled to vote on the contract with AFSCME Local 3993 at their meeting on Thursday, but there is now a complication in that agreement as well.
The transit agency negotiated with all three unions a change in the time it takes for newly hired employees to become vested in its retiree medical insurance program, calling for that period to triple from five years to 15 years.
The date the policy was supposed to change for all three unions was supposed to be Jan. 1, but BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said Wednesday that one section of the agency's tentative agreement with AFSCME Local 3992 has a typo that says the policy won't change until July 1.
She said another section of the agreement with the union has the correct date of Jan. 1.
Trost said when BART management discovered the typo, it asked AFSCME Local 3993 to change it but the union refused.
AFSCME Local 3993 president Patricia Schuchardt couldn't immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Trost said BART needs the state Legislature to approve the policy change for the retiree medical insurance program and said agency officials hope that the complication over the starting date can be resolved by the Legislature.
BART's tentative agreement with its employees on Oct. 21 ended a four-day strike by its employees. Employees also went on strike for four days at the beginning of July.