AC Transit said it was moving closer to reaching a deal with its union workers Tuesday afternoon, as the deadline for a strike edged closer.
AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson said negotiations between the two sides were ongoing, with a mediator meeting separately with both sides.
On Monday ATU Local 192 gave the transit agency notice its workers planned to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning. A walkout would shut down the system, which serves 180,000 riders a day.
“Regrettably, our contingency plan simply involves no service,” Johnson said during a Tuesday morning press briefing. “We cannot operate without operators.”
Johnson said the two sides were about $4 million dollars apart on salaries – down from a $9 million disparity the day before. He said AC Transit was offering workers a 9 percent raise, while workers were demanding 10 percent.
Representatives from the union didn’t return calls for comment. One union representative, when reached by phone, said the union leadership had been instructed not to speak to the media.
Johnson said AC Transit was asking workers to contribute 10 percent to their health plan – they currently pay nothing.
Twenty-five-year AC Transit bus driver Ted Miller said workers weren’t opposed to contributing to their healthcare, but that 10 percent was too high. He said drivers hadn’t received a raise in 15 years, and the proposed raise would be offset by the increased contributions to healthcare.
Miller said another major sticking point for drivers was meal and restroom breaks, which they want to see increased.
“All of us want to serve the public, we care about the public,” said Miller. “They see us on the bus, they don’t’ see them sitting in these offices.”
The threat of a strike came like a punch to the gut for many bus riders, many who are still shaken from the ongoing unrest in BART negotiations.
“Everybody trying to get to school, everybody trying to get to work,” said bus rider Mike Sanders. “Everybody trying to get somewhere to go.”
At a bus stop in downtown Oakland, 10-year-old Makei Harrison and his mother pondered how he would get to school if a strike happened. Harrison said he would be forced to walk several miles when school opens next Monday.
“It’s pretty important,” Harrison said. “We don’t have any other form of transportation to take us there.”