BART Strike Countdown Clock Set for Midnight Sunday

Negotiations will continue through the weekend

BART workers on Thursday gave the California Bay Area transit agency a 72-hour notice they will strike if a new labor deal isn't reached by a Sunday midnight deadline.

Both sides -- who have met each day this week -- have yet to come to terms on a new deal during a 30-day contract extension that ended the first work stoppage held in early July.

“It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in the same situation that we were in 30 days ago, with no real progress made by management to address worker concerns about safety and wage cuts,” Roxanne Sanchez, SEIU Local 1021 president said in a statement.

In response to the notice, BART spokesman Rick Rice said there is no reason for union leadership to call a strike.

“We are very disappointed and hope they reconsider their options. A strike only stalls and delays the decisions that need to be made while using our riders as pawns," Rice said in a statement. “A strike is unnecessary and places an unfair burden on our riders and everyone in the Bay Area."

Unions said they submitted their last financial proposal on July 17 and were still awaiting a counteroffer from BART two weeks later, said Josie Mooney, chief negotiator for the local Service Employees International Union, one of two unions in the talks.

Union members held a rally at 5 p.m. in Oakland. Oakland police told NBC Bay Area they called in extra officers just in case things got out of hand.

The union members said they were would march from Frank Ogawa Plaza to the AC Transit headquarters several blocks away. 

The two sides resumed negotiations around noon on Thursday, but did not appear close to an agreement.
Both sides say progress has been made on peripheral issues, but the main issues.

Antonette Bryant, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, the other union in talks with BART, would not say how far about the sides were. "We are hopeful that we can get an agreement,'' Bryant said. "There's still time at the table.''
BART spokesman Jim Allison echoed that sentiment at a Thursday media briefing. "We believe there is still enough time to come to a common-sense contract agreement,'' he said.

The Bay Area Council, which represents hundreds of the region’s largest employers, called upon the five unions representing more than 3,000 BART workers to accept the transit agency’s latest contract offer before a threatened Sunday strike deadline.

“BART’s offer appears to be very fair. Subjecting the entire region and hundreds of thousands of BART riders to another and potentially lengthier and more painful strike is not,” Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council, said. “BART workers are right to expect a pay raise after more than four years of going largely without, and the current offer gives them that while ensuring BART can invest in critical and long-overdue system upgrades totaling billions of dollars.”

If a deal isn't reached over the weekend, a train service shutdown could be in effect for the morning commute on Monday.
The unions went on strike last month, shutting down BART service for four days and snarling transit in the region. Commuters faced long lines for buses and ferries and jammed roadways. But the strike happened on the week of July 4 and many people were on vacation.

If BART goes on strike next week, it will have a much bigger impact on the commute.
BART, the nation's fifth-largest rail system, serves more than 400,000 commuters each weekday. It carries passengers from the farthest reaches of San Francisco's densely populated eastern suburbs to San Francisco International Airport across the bay.
The unions which represent nearly 2,400 train operators, station agents, mechanics, maintenance workers and professional staff agreed to call off the strike and extend their contracts until Aug. 4 while negotiations continued.
Key sticking points in the labor dispute include pensions and health care costs, according to BART.
The transit agency has said union train operators and station agents average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. The workers also pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance and nothing toward their pensions.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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