On July 2, I wrote an op-ed in this newspaper imploring my board colleagues and management staff at BART to hold the line in our negotiations with BART unions.
While the end-result of these negotiations may be far better than past ones, it fell far short of what it could have been due largely to BART moving too far too quickly, not playing cards right leading up to and during the strike, and tending to look at a four-year picture rather than the long-term picture when costing the impacts of our decisions.
Throughout BART's labor negotiations, BART moved disproportionately faster than the other side. By the time we brought our 0 percent wage increase proposal up to 8 percent, the other side was still pie-in-the-sky demanding a 23-plus percent wage increase.
This disproportionately faster movement may appear trivial, but it harmed our chances of reining in costs. For one, this early on acceleration forced us to slam on the brakes as we approached our negotiation target on several occasions, which created premature negotiation impasse.
At the same time, by moving quicker than the other side, we sweetened our offer faster than they un-sweetened theirs. Hence, by moving as quickly as we did throughout negotiations, we brought about an impasse sooner than necessary and landed with a contract that is much richer than necessary.
We also betrayed and let down the majority-supportive public in our handling of our unions' last strike.
Although it is up to unions to call a strike, it is up to BART management and the board to accept a strike. And the only time that you accept a strike is when you reach your wits end and are not able to go further in negotiations.
The problem is, we did go further, effectively rewarding bad behavior and making the strike not worth it for us or the inconvenienced public that stood behind us.
It's true that we got some gains, such as BART no longer being strapped from moving forward technologically, employees contributing towards pension, future employees having to vest 15 years instead of five for retirement medical, and employees without sick or vacation allowances no longer being allowed to call in sick and then earn premium pay when they work an off-day.
But it all comes with what amounts to reimbursements: a more than 16 percent wage increase over four years when compounded and several financial "credits" that allows BART staff to artificially deflate the actual costs of the contract.
For example, even though future employees must now vest 15 years before receiving retirement medical, all current employees will be grandfathered. But the net present value of the many-decades' savings from this action is being provided as a "credit" to current employees.
It amounts to a "new employee-to-current employee" subsidy. In addition, for every 1 percent contribution in pensions, our employees were given a mathematically equivalent wage increase to offset their pension contributions.
So, rather than paying our employees' share of their pensions directly, we're now going to pay them so that they can pay their own pensions! That's why pensions, medical, and retirement medical will in actuality still all be subsidized by BART riders and taxpayers.
All that we have done is redecorated the subsidies and made them permanent by converting them into further-inflated wages.
In the end, the public got hurt twice: they had to suffer through a strike that proved not to be worthwhile and they will now be stuck with a bill that will last for at least several decades.
For this, I lend my apologies to the public and a personal commitment to not approve this contract.
Zakhary Mallett is a member of the BART Board of Directors, District 7.