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Tentative Labor Agreement May Reverse Muni Service Cuts

IMG_2191_1.jpgPhoto: Michael Rhodes

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has reached a tentative agreement with six of its employee unions, including the Muni operators union, that would save the agency $18.7 million over two years and allow it, by September 4, to restore over half the service it cut earlier this month.

The agreement, which still needs to be ratified by the members of six separate unions, would likely mean a full service restoration on Muni by July of next year.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and SFMTA Executive Director Nat Ford announced the deal this afternoon,
just a day after San Francisco police and firefighter union officials agreed to bring concession deals before their members for approval. Muni operators had rejected a concession deal in February by a 857-575 vote, but concession agreements from other unions will put extra pressure on the Muni operators to approve the deal, Newsom said, as will the recent service cuts.

"They know they'll be recognized and rewarded" if they approve the package, he said.

Ford said that with the $7 million the Board of Supervisors--which acts as the board of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (TA)--has agreed to send to the SFMTA with conditions, the concessions deal could allow the agency to undo 55 percent of the service it cut on May 8, with a gradual ramping-up of service until it's back to pre-cut levels by July 2011.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who chairs the TA, welcomed news of the agreement. "I think that was exactly the direction we hoped they would go," he said. As for whether the TA will now send the SFMTA $7 million for next year, Mirkarimi said, "it's not automatic, but it certainly helps advance the cause. We'll have to process this but my forecast is that it will likely prevail."

As for the Board of Supervisors' vote on the SFMTA's two-year budget, Mirkarimi added, "we must keep in mind that this is a one-time fix and it doesn't remedy the chronic problems that are still very much on our minds."

Ford credited union officials for their commitment to working on the deal, and said it could mean ultimately increasing service above pre-cut levels, guided by Transit Effectiveness Project data.

Neither Ford nor the Mayor would discuss details of the plan, which involves all of the SFMTA's public employee unions. But Bob Muscat, director of Professional & Technical Engineers, Local 21, and a key negotiator on the agreement, said all of the unions would hold votes on it within the next 10 days, including Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators, SEIU "service critical" employees, which include PCOs and station agents, and TWU Local 200.

Muni operator wage rates are guaranteed in the city charter, and were set to increase by almost $9 million on July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.

Through concessions from all six unions involved, the new deal would save the SFMTA $9 million in the first year and $9.7 million in the second year, and would all but assure that no Muni operators will be laid off.

Last February, the SFMTA Board voted to cut overall service frequencies by 10 percent to cover a mid-year budget deficit, and subsequently voted to extend the cuts into the next fiscal year, and restore half that service in the fiscal year following that, since it's anticipating an uptick in revenue if the economy continues to improve. It will cost the agency about $15 million to fully restore service in fiscal year 2012, which starts on July 1, 2011, and somewhat less to partially roll back the cuts in fiscal year 2011.

"Riders should recognize" the sacrifice from drivers "and thank them" if they approve it, the Mayor said.

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