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Computer glitch is latest issue for transit agency

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POSTED November 22, 2013 9:57 p.m.

OAKLAND (AP) — In recent months, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system has seen two strikes shut down service and had two workers killed on tracks.

Now BART is facing its latest set of problems: a computer glitch that shut down transit service during the Friday morning commute and more trouble reaching a new contract with workers.

"BART has been so inconsistent this year, (it's been) a bad year for them," commuter Jill Ann Cosentino, 35, of Oakland, said Friday as she headed to her event planning job in San Francisco.

The nation's fifth-largest commuter rail system with an average weekday ridership of 400,000, BART has been shut down twice when more than 2,300 members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 walked off their jobs for several days amid contract talks.

The two strikes in July and October snarled commutes in the region, and people turned to crowded buses, ferries and roadways as alternatives.

During the second strike, two BART workers were killed by a train operated by an employee undergoing training. The parties soon returned to the bargaining table and reached a tentative deal Oct. 21.

That deal hit a snag Thursday when BART's board approved the agreement without a key Family Medical Leave Act provision that would provide six weeks of paid leave to care for sick family members. The transit agency said the provision could cost $44 million over four years if one-third of union workers take six-week leaves each year.

"Simply put, (BART) cannot afford to give its employees another six weeks of paid leave, on top of the generous leave already allowed in the BART employee benefit package," BART President Tom Radulovich said.

Union representatives on Friday reiterated their belief that the board's vote was an unfair labor practice as they met with their attorneys and members.

"We consider the board's actions to be unprecedented and illegitimate, and we're considering our next steps, including possible legal action," the unions said in a joint statement. "The BART board has disregarded the vote of more than 2,000 BART workers and has chosen to subvert the collective bargaining process, and we take their actions seriously."

Last week, BART officials announced that the family leave provision had been inadvertently included in the tentative contract due to an error by a temporary employee, prompting the board to approve the contract, minus the provision.

"That is not the contract we voted on. That is not the contract that we took to our members," ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant said. "Our members didn't have the luxury to pick and choose what they wanted to vote on."

Then on Friday, a computer problem shut down BART service for several hours, forcing some commuters to again find alternate ways to get to their destinations.

The disruption was traced to an infrastructure upgrade Thursday that mistakenly left computer systems unable to communicate properly with track switches that route trains, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said. Service resumed shortly after 7 a.m., more than three hours after the normal start time.


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