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SF transit workers call in sick again

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POSTED June 3, 2014 8:01 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco’s famed cable cars were halted Tuesday for a second straight day while the rest of the city’s transit system experienced delays after drivers called in sick again — days after overwhelmingly rejecting a new labor contract.

The drivers’ union president, however, said Tuesday that the labor group has nothing to do with the sick calls.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials say it was running at about half of its normal weekday service. Though that was up from a day earlier, riders were warned that they would still experience significant delays.

“We’re doing everything we can to get all of our operators back to work as soon as possible,” agency spokesman Paul Rose said Tuesday.

The agency known as Muni runs buses, light rail and street cars in addition to the cable cars, and serves about 700,000 passengers each day. Its operators represented by Transport Workers Union Local 250-A rejected the contract by a 1,198 to 42 vote Friday, according to totals on the union’s website.

Eric Williams, the Local 250-A president, declined to comment Tuesday on operators calling in sick because he said the union had no role in sanctioning that.

The workers are not allowed to go on strike, but they can call in sick.

Transit officials said those who reported sick must confirm they were sick to get sick pay and could be subject to discipline up to being fired.

“Sick leave is available to employees when they or a family member is sick or in need of medical care,” Alicia John-Baptiste, the transit agency’s chief of staff, wrote in a memo on Monday. “It would be dishonest to claim entitlement to sick leave when these circumstances do not pertain.”

Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement Tuesday that he joins riders throughout the city in their frustration at the drivers who have “irresponsibly abandoned their jobs and intentionally disrupted” service.

“This cannot continue,” Lee said. “I say to our drivers, ‘People count on you to do your job so they can get to theirs.’”

Most trains and buses running were at capacity.

On Tuesday, all express buses were serving every stop again, the transportation agency said. The Bay Area Rapid Transit agency, which connects the city to its suburbs, was honoring tickets on city transportation all day from the Daly City and Balboa Park stations to downtown San Francisco.

The contract that Muni workers rejected Friday would have given them a raise of more than 11 percent over two years. However, it also would have required them to cover a 7.5 percent pension payment currently paid by the transit agency, Rose said.

The contract would have increased operator pay to $32 an hour, making them the second highest-paid transit workers in the country, Rose said.

Williams, the union president, called the proposal unfair and said the city had proposed unreasonable takeaways in wages and benefits.

“Our members are hard-working and all we want is fairness,” Williams said.

 

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