BART directors on Thursday must reject the costly labor contract that ended the four-day strike last month -- even if that means workers walk off the job again.
We already knew the deal was a sell-out of riders and taxpayers that blew through the budget BART directors had set going into the negotiations. Now we learn that district negotiators also "inadvertently" agreed to outrageously expensive new family leave policies that hadn't been accounted for in previous cost estimates.
Union officials claim the additional benefits were part of the deal for months. That's news to BART directors and the public. But even if it was supposed to be part of the contract, that's all the more reason that the transit board should reject it.
For those who haven't followed the latest surreal developments, it turns out that after negotiators for the two sides reached a deal, after union members voted to ratify the contract, a BART attorney discovered it contained the family leave provision.
It would provide six weeks' fully paid family leave to workers taking care of a seriously ill child, spouse, parent or domestic partner, or bonding with a new child.
As nice as that might sound, keep in mind that's nearly twice as generous as the standard California family-leave program benefit. Keep in mind that it would easily add $20 million to the cost of the four-year deal, which BART officials had previously underestimated at $67 million.
As it is, BART workers already receive generous pension benefits for which they finally agreed to start making minimal payments only in exchange for an offsetting raise; a separate retirement savings account that BART fully funds; and health insurance for which employees pay $129 a month, no matter how many dependents.
The contract also contains an 11.7 percent salary increase, after subtracting increased contributions to pensions and health care.
Any BART director who agrees to this deal should be voted out of office.
It's outrageous that they were so far out of the loop that some of them didn't even start reading the contract until last week. It's incredible that BART negotiators signed agreements without reading them. It's inexcusable that district lawyers didn't catch the family leave provision until after union workers had voted to ratify the contracts.
District officials issued a "fact" sheet about the family leave snafu in which they said, "Mistakes happen in the business world and in life every day."
That's true. And, in the business world, people who make mistakes like this are usually fired.