What are the 'work rules' that caused BART strike?

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — After six months of negotiations and a four-day strike in July, San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system and its workers had all but agreed on the typically contentious contract issues of wages and benefits. Then a deal fell apart, and workers went on strike Friday for a second time. The main sticking point: "work rules."

WHAT ARE WORK RULES? They cover everything from how schedules are made and how grievances are handled to how paychecks are distributed and whether reports are written electronically or in longhand. For workers, stricter rules create stability in their assignments and how they do their jobs. For managers, they limit how flexibly and efficiently they can run the system.

HOW DO THEY FACTOR ON THE BART TALKS? Some of the biggest work rule changes BART sought relate to work shifts and worker protections. For example, BART wants to be able to change work schedules with greater ease; the unions want to preserve schedules such as a 4-day, 10-hour week, saying this helps workers with child care and other obligations. Other proposed changes would affect the handling of worker claims of discrimination or harassment by managers. The unions say they are willing to submit work rule changes to an arbitrator, but that BART declined.

ARE WORK RULES USUALLY SUCH A BIG DEAL? They are not typically a deal-breaker for negotiations. Disagreements over wages and benefits such as health care and pensions are usually the kinds of issues that provoke a strike. In some negotiations, unions trade work rules for a better economic package.

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