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Transit agency OKs deal without key provision

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm •  Published: November 21, 2013

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit board approved a tentative labor contract Thursday after stripping out a disputed family medical leave provision that officials with its two largest unions have said they want included.

Board members voted 8-1 to approve the deal, minus the provision that would give workers six weeks of paid annual leave to care for sick family members. The transit agency said the provision could cost $44 million over four years if one-third of union workers take six-week leaves each year.

BART officials announced last week that the provision had been inadvertently included in the proposed contract due to an error.

The parties agreed to a tentative deal Oct. 21 after six months of agonizing negotiations and two strikes that caused headaches for hundreds of thousands of people who ride the nation's fifth-largest commuter rail system.

"We hope the unions will take the agreement, minus the six weeks of additional paid leave that was mistakenly included in the final document, back to their members," BART President Tom Radulovich said. "Simply put, (BART) cannot afford to give its employees another six weeks of paid leave, on top of the generous leave already allowed in the BART employee benefit package."

The decision creates uncertainty about the fate of the tentative contract. Representatives from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 called the move by the board an unfair labor practice.

The unions intend to discuss the matter with attorneys and members to determine the next step.

"I am deeply disappointed in the actions that the board took," ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant said after the vote. "To take this action on something that was not presented to our members speaks to the fact that they are not adhering to the negotiation process."

She later told the board that it was "a slap in the face to the negotiation process."

"You vote on a contract in its entirety — up or down. We expected the board to step up and act with integrity and credibility," Bryant said. "We did not get to pick or choose what we wanted to leave in or to leave out."

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