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BART hires consultant to potentially avert strikes

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The Bay Area Rapid Transit agency has hired a labor consultant to help figure out how to prevent problems that led to two strikes and a contentious contract dispute.

The BART board of directors voted on Thursday to hire Rhonda Hilyer of the Seattle-based Agreement Dynamics Inc. to re-examine how the agency negotiates contracts and the checks and balances used to prevent errors.

Hilyer will work with a BART board ad hoc committee that will recommend strategies to improve labor negotiations. The consultant will be paid $225,000.

BART's two largest unions staged two-four day strikes last year. The parties reached a tentative agreement in October before BART objected to a provision about an expensive family medical leave benefit they say had been mistakenly put into the deal.

A final deal was reached in December and ratified in January.

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