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Nation/World

December 22, 2013

Getting back on track

SAN FRANCISCO — The threat of another commute-crippling transportation strike in the San Francisco Bay area receded on Saturday when officials for the region’s transit rail system and negotiators for its two largest labor unions said they had resolved the latest sticking point in their months-long negotiations and reached a new contract.

Bay Area Rapid Transit district and union leaders said the four-year deal reached early Saturday settles a dispute over paid medical leave for employees that arose last month after the two sides had approved an October agreement that ended the second of two strikes BART workers staged this year.

“I’m hopeful this is the last stop and that we can get off this wild ride of negotiations and that the parties can get back to our main focus, which is delivering people to and from their points of interest,” Saul Almanza, a BART worker safety specialist and Service Employees International Union vice president.

Under the revised agreement BART posted on its website, workers who need to take time off to care for sick family members will be allowed to decide how to use sick days, vacation time and other accumulated paid days off to maintain their paychecks. They also will have the option of taking up to 12 days off without pay.

The language replaces a provision in the October agreement that would have given workers up to six weeks of paid family leave a year. After that first deal was approved by union members, BART officials said the paid leave provision had been included by mistake and that honoring the benefit would cost the system $44 million over the life of the contract if one-third of the agency’s workers took advantage of it.

The district’s board subsequently stripped the disputed section from the contract, raising the possibility of a third strike and prompting the latest round of labor talks.

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