BART's Working Weekend Stretches Into Monday

No deal yet -- Thursday deadline looms

Bay Area Rapid Transit leaders and unions negotiators spent the weekend at the bargaining table but there is still no breakthrough between the two groups.

While there was some progress made over the weekend, there is still a long way to go before an agreement -- despite a new, upcoming deadline.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson said management has "an internal goal" of reaching an agreement with its 2,800-plus union workers by this Thursday, which will represent four  months since contract talks began on April 1.

So, both sides are back at the bargaining table.

Johnson issued a press release late Sunday night headlined, "BART union negotiations hit snag over wasteful work rules."

Johnson said today the dispute over work rules hasn't caused an  impasse in negotiations but he said it is a sticking point.

Specifically, medical and retiree benefits were two of the main sticking points.

As the new deadline looms, Lisa Isler, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, BART's largest union, says she is "cautiously optimistic" the groups would come to an agreement just in time.

Johnson said management doesn't have any plans at this point to impose a new contract if an agreement isn't reached by Thursday.

Asked what will happen if there's no agreement by Thursday,  Johnson said, "We ask that question on Thursday."

Carlos Rivera, the spokesman for the transit agency's largest union, Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents  about 1,400 mechanics, custodians, safety inspectors and clerical employees, said, "We definitely want to have an agreement" by Thursday and "the last thing we want is a strike."

Members of BART's three largest unions voted by overwhelming margins last month to authorize a strike, but there are no plans to strike at this time.

Johnson said contract talks this week "have been good in some areas but not so good in other areas."

Johnson said management is committed to achieving $100 million in labor cost savings in order to cope with its large budget deficit, which is estimated to be $310 million over four years.

Rivera said union leaders want management to look more closely at their proposal, which they say will save $760 million in long-term savings.

Bay City News

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