OAKLAND — After the rejection of the final contract offer from Bay Area Rapid Transit, union leaders for 1,200 clerks and janitors are considering their next step, which includes a possible strike starting next week.
By a vote of 454 to 354 on Wednesday night, members of United Public Employees Union Local 790 rejected the public agency's proposed contract.
Although the contract was approved by a vote of 170 to 164 by the 500-member Local 1555 of Amalgamated Transit Union, union leaders said they would not report to work if Local 790 of United Public Employees struck.
"The union will not be split," said Hank White, president of Local 1555.
Both unions have been locked for months in a labor dispute with management over retirement benefits.
The probability that Local 1555, which represents 500 train operators and station agents, will honor picket lines is "a major concern of ours at this point," BART spokesman Sy Mouber said.
Mouber said the train system could run, at least for a while, without Local 790's workers. But if train operators and station agents refuse to cross picket lines, he said, it would cripple BART. The unions have promised to give 24 hours' notice if they strike.
Local 790 voted down the proposed contract at the recommendation of union leaders.
Together, the two unions represent about two-thirds of BART's employees operating a system that carries 200,000 riders a day Monday through Friday.
A transit district official called its contract offer "one of the best in the industry today," and noted that BART faces a $4.8-million deficit in the current fiscal year. The three-year pact calls for a 14% increase in pay and benefits the first year and 3% for each of the next two years, with a one-time cost-of-living payment at the end.
But both unions have criticized the proposed retirement benefits.
Executives of the two locals were meeting late Thursday on the issue.