Bay Area Rapid Transit trains are shown sitting on the platform at the station in Millbrae, Calif., Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
BART management is meeting with union leaders again Monday to try to reach an agreement before the union employees' contract expires at midnight Sunday, a management spokesman said.
Transit district spokesman Rick Rice said management is meeting with leaders of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, this morning and with leaders of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers, Monday afternoon.
The talks are being facilitated by two state mediators who sometimes meet with the parties separately and other times meet with all of them together in the same room.
SEIU Local 1021 executive director Pete Castelli said negotiations have been ongoing but have been proceeding more slowly than they should because BART's lead negotiator, Thomas Hock, has been on vacation for the past 10 days.
Castelli said that means the parties have only been able to talk about small supplemental issues during that time instead of the bigger sticking points, which he said are wages, benefits and worker safety.
But Rice said Hock's vacation was approved by the state mediator back on July 7 and that the parties have still been able to talk about important matters in his absence.
"There have been more meetings than originally scheduled and there's still plenty of time to reach an agreement," Rice said.
Hock will be back at the bargaining table on Tuesday, and the mediators' schedule includes talks every day until the contract expires on Sunday night, he said.
Castelli said, "We will have hope that an agreement can be reached but we don't have high hopes."
He said that is because union leaders believe BART management hired Hock to be their lead negotiator so that he could force workers to go on strike and eventually "cave in" and accept an unfavorable contract.
Rice denied Castelli's allegation, saying, "BART is absolutely trying to reach an agreement and believe a deal can still be reached that keeps the trains running."
BART employees went on strike the morning of July 1 but late on July 4 they agreed to extend their previous contract for 30 days, until Aug. 4. They returned to work the afternoon of July 5.
The four-and-a-half day strike clogged local highways and caused commute headaches for Bay Area residents.
Transit officials fear that the commuting nightmare could be repeated next Monday if BART doesn't reach an agreement with its employees by Sunday night.