Union workers approve deal with San Francisco commuter rail agency

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 02, 2013 10:38 PM

(Reuters) - San Francisco-area unionized transit workers voted to ratify a labor agreement that ended a four-day strike last month at the fifth largest U.S. commuter rail system, officials with the agency said on Saturday.

The labor action shut down the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency, or BART, jammed roadways and added hours to morning commutes in one of the most traffic-clogged U.S. cities.

The two sides reached a deal and service resumed on October 22. On Friday evening, workers with the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which is the agency's largest union with more than 1,400 workers, voted 88 percent in favor of a four-year contract, the union said in a statement.

The BART board of directors will vote soon on the contracts, the agency said in a statement. BART is expected to ratify the deal.

"BART was able to gain reforms it has sought for years which will have a positive impact on our ability to manage the system and will improve service for our customers," BART General Manager Grace Crunican said in a statement.

The contract requires employees to begin contributing to their pensions - with the amount rising gradually to 4 percent of their pay in the last year of the contract - and paying more for health benefits, BART officials said in a statement.

BART employees will receive a 15.4 percent pay increase over four years, the agency said.

Before the new contract, management had said BART workers earned $79,000 a year on average, plus benefits, while the unions put the average worker's salary at $64,000.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Greg McCune and Peter Cooney)