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San Francisco Bay Area transit system and labour unions reach deal, resolve final contract snag

SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit officials and labour union leaders announced a new deal early Saturday, saying the final issue in their ongoing dispute has been resolved.

The transit system and its two largest unions have been involved in months-long negotiations that stalled recently over paid medical leave time for employees.

BART officials and labour leaders had approved a deal in October after six months of negotiations and two strikes that caused problems for hundreds of thousands of people who ride the nation's fifth-largest commuter rail system.

That deal fell apart last month when BART officials said the provision giving workers six weeks of paid annual leave to care for sick family members had been mistakenly included in the contract.

BART General Manager Grace Crunican said in a statement early Saturday that she will recommend the company's board of directors approve the new agreement as soon as possible.

"After eight months of uncertainty for our riders, this deal will guarantee that every ounce of the Agency's focus will be directed to providing great service to the Bay Area during the peak holiday period and beyond," Crunican said, according to the statement. The Associated Press could not immediately reach officials for further comment.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant confirmed by phone that a deal had been reached during overnight negotiations. She declined, however, to discuss details until union members have had a chance to see the agreement.

Service Employees International Union Local 1021 BART chapter President John Arantes said in a statement on his union's website that it was a "fair resolution that would close months of drawn out contract talks." He did not elaborate. The union office was closed early Saturday, and the AP could not immediately reach an official for further comment.

Both unions are expected to bring the matter to their members for a vote.

The BART statement says the contract dispute was resolved with solutions that either are administrative or can be covered within the transit system's existing budget.

The new agreement expands the bereavement leave policy and "allows qualifying employees more flexibility in how they pay for the costs of their family medical leave," according to the transit system statement.

It also mentions there will be "additional administrative changes to the contract" and upgrades to employee break rooms at three BART stations.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1ckNaVt

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Collins contributed from San Francisco. Moore reported from Phoenix.

The Canadian Press


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