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San Francisco rail workers resolve final contract dispute

A sign is shown blocking the entrance to the Powell Street station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in San Francisco, California October
A sign is shown blocking the entrance to the Powell Street station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in San Francisco, California October

By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Unionized workers and management for San Francisco's rail system, the nation's fifth largest, said on Saturday they have resolved a final sticking point in a labor contract dispute that lasted eight months and saw two crippling transit strikes.

The agreement includes an amended version of a family medical leave provision that had divided the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) and its two largest unions, the transit agency said in a statement.

"It's a fair resolution that would close months of drawn out contract talks," said John Arantes, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 (SEIU).

The BART board of directors will vote soon on the contract. If ratified by the board, the agreement will go to final vote by the SEIU and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, the agency said.

The two sides reached a deal in late October, ending a four-day employee walkout that caused traffic delays and forced passengers to miss work and school or be hours late. It was the second strike since July.

Shortly after the unions ratified the agreement, BART said it had mistakenly agreed to a deal term that would give workers six weeks of paid family medical leave. It said it could not afford to fund the time off, which would cost between $1.4 million and $44 million over the four-year contract, depending on how many employees used it.

In early December, union leaders sued to enforce the contract, which they said BART unlawfully reneged on.

The most current contract drops the six weeks of paid family medical leave in exchange for amending the deal to include extended bereavement leave and upgraded employee break rooms, BART said.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Kevin Murphy and Sandra Maler)

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