Jul 1 2013

BART Management and Unions Proposals

Strike continues as BART attempts to hold costs down, and unions press for increased compensation and work condition changes in their contracts. –

Ever increasing costs of health care  and pensions have placed a heavy burden on the public sector paid for by taxpayers.  BART  and other public employee benefit costs have been significant in budgets. The disparity between the benefits of an average private sector worker and public employee has been growing, as taxpayers become increasingly aware of issues such as some free pensions and lifetime health benefits.

During the bargaining process (including the strike period), employee proposals and management proposals are not open to the public due to labor laws. However, some information has become available on what is being discussed in the bargaining process.

According to an AP article on Saturday, June 29:

The unions want a 5 percent annual raise over the next three years.  Currently, train operators and station agents are paid in the low $60,000 range. Employees average $16,590 in overtime annually and pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.

Meanwhile, BART has offered a 1 percent raise annually over the next four years and for employees to contribute to their pensions. Yahoo.com

Unlike most private employees, public employees have enjoyed guaranteed pensions, to which many have made very low or no contributions.  Most retirees in the private sector, vigilantly watch their expenses, IRA’s or 401 Ks.  Public employees need not worry about the stock market or investments made by their pension provider, as their pension amounts are guaranteed during all economic periods.  This pension guarantee received little notice by the public until recently when CalPERS funds, where BART’s retirees are vested, took a nose dive.  The drop in value of the CalPERS funds, caused participating agencies such as Piedmont and BART to increase contributions to meet beneficiary costs.

According to an article in the Mercury News:

The average BART worker — including management and non-union employees — made $83,157 in gross pay in 2012, up from $80,588 in 2010, according to an analysis of payroll records by this newspaper. An 8 percent wage bump, on top of a 1 percent pay increase already set to kick in Monday, would push the average BART employee’s gross pay to about $90,600 in 2016.

BART spokesman Rick Rice said they also offered “meaningful reductions” to employee pension and health care contributions compared to what agency officials had proposed earlier. Pay, pension contributions and medical costs are the three big issues left, and unions were set to review the latest proposal Saturday night.

Rice said that their latest offer would give workers enough money to see a “net increase” in total compensation even with workers contributing more to their health care and pension plans.

Union leaders have said they were willing to budge on the issues of pensions and health care benefits but it’s unclear how far they’re willing to go. Currently, BART workers don’t pay toward their pensions and give $92 a month toward their medical benefits, regardless of the number of dependents. Including pay and benefits, the average cost for BART for each employee was $116,309 last year, up from $110,017 in 2010.  Mercury News

AC Transit continued service on Monday, July 1, requiring many bus drivers and employees to work extra hours to provide needed transportation support.   In some cases, these employees receive time-and-a-half or double-time compensation.  It is unknown at this point if AC Transit, whose contract has also expired, will go on strike simultaneously with BART.  Negotiations are continuing.

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