With the 60-day cooling-off period about to reach its end, negotiators for BART management and its labor unions returned to the bargaining table Wednesday to try to avoid a possible strike.
Negotiators for BART and Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers, met until about 9 p.m. Tuesday and were poised to do the same Wednesday night.
“We're making progress every day,” said BART chief negotiator Thomas Hock. “Something changes every day, so I would tell you it's not enough progress to get it resolved, but it's progress.”
The 60-day cooling-off period ordered by a judge on Aug. 11 at the request of BART management and Gov. Jerry Brown expires on Thursday night and BART workers could go on strike on Friday if there's no agreement by then.
BART's chief negotiator says the sides remain millions of dollars apart.
Though they haven't given a 72-hour notice, the unions say riders should be ready for a potential walkout on Friday morning.
“What I would say: be prepared. That's the Girl Scout motto, be prepared,” said ATU President Antonette Bryant. “I don't know what's going to happen. I wish I had a crystal ball.”
As negotiators weigh their options behind closed doors, BART's marketing team spent the day asking riders to weigh in on another matter: the types of seats they'd like to see on BART's “fleet of the future.”
But some riders say new seats take a backseat to their strike worries. They won't feel comfortable until the threat of a walkout has been averted.
“After you get the contract right, then there will be no problems trying out the seats,” said BART rider Walter Hagans. “But we might never get to sit in the seats if y'all don't get it together.”
BART workers held a strike for four-and-a-half days at the beginning of July before they agreed to Brown's request that they return to the bargaining table for another 30 days. The governor then asked for the 60-day cooling off period after that round of talks failed.
JULY 2013 PHOTOS: BART Workers Strike, Commuting Headaches
Last week, the unions said they were asking for employees to get an 11.5 percent increase over three years: 3.75 percent for each of the first two years and 4 percent in the third year and BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said BART was offering a 10 percent increase over four years.
The unions also were asking that for each tenth of a percent ridership increase above BART projections, workers would get an additional tenth of a percent raise.
Bay City News contributed to this report.