Cooling Off Terms Heat up at BART

BART contract expires July 1

With less than three weeks remaining before BART's contract with its employees expires, management and labor unions have sent conflicting letters to Gov. Schwarzenegger about the possibility of declaring a "cooling  off" period in the talks.
It will be up to Schwarzenegger to decide whether to grant a cooling-off period, which would last up to 60 days. During that time, contract talks would continue, union members couldn't go on strike and  management couldn't impose a contract. 

BART spokesman Linton Johnson said eight of BART's nine board members have signed a letter to the governor telling him that they won't ask him for a cooling-off period if a new four-year contract hasn't been reached by the June 30 deadline.

The BART board said it is serious about concluding contract negotiations with all five of its unions by the end of the month.

They point out BART faces a nearly $250 million, four-year deficit and claim continuing negotiations past July 1 would make the number go higher.

The board's letter to Schwarzenegger reads, "To avoid unnecessarily prolonging negotiations, we respectfully ask that you deny any request that a BART union may seek from you for a cooling off period."

AFSCME Local 3993 President Jean Hamilton said employees sent a letter to the governor today urging him to consider a cooling-off period because negotiations are running behind schedule.

Hamilton said in a statement, "We're likely to need more time. We can't count how many times they have canceled on us or refused to give us specifics on a new contract. We've been warning executives for weeks that at  this pace we'll never meet the deadline."

Contract talks for BART's employees have almost always gone down to the wire and sometimes have extended several months past the June 30 deadline.

In the last contract talks in 2005, an agreement was reached shortly before 3 a.m. on July 6, narrowly averting a strike that union members had threatened if an agreement wasn't reached.

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