Last-Minute Offer Keeps BART Trains Rolling

BART: "We think it's a fair offer"

Midnight came and went and still no contract agreement, but Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency trains are still rolling.

Although an agreement wasn't reached before the unions' contract  expired at midnight Thursday, the transit agency presented an offer than includes $100 million in reductions to labor benefits and work rules. Earlier, BART said it was facing a $250 million deficit but they are now saying that has skyrocketed to $310 million.

Union leaders aren't wild about the timing of that information so they presented their own offer. And while there is no agreement, the unions will present BART's offer to the union members for a vote next week.

After the marathon round of negotiations, Larry Gerber, the chief negotiator of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, and Jesse Hunt, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said that they will have their members vote on the contract offer sometime next week.

Speaking to reporters outside the negotiation site at 2201 Valley St. in downtown Oakland, Gerber said he thinks management's offer "is not very good" but he wants to give his members a chance to vote on it.

The unions will give "more than one days' notice" if there is a strike.

If the members reject it, the union's leaders plan to ask the governor to impose a cooling off period.

Although an agreement hasn't yet been reached, BART spokesman Linton Johnson looked on the bright side.

"We think it's a good offer," Johnson said, "It looks like the unions have accepted an offer from us on the table which preserves their salaries and also helps us achieve the $100 million in labor cost savings that we were seeking."

So it appears that you can rely on BART at least through the weekend and perhaps early next week. Roughly 350,000 people rely on BART daily to get around.

The last strike in 1997 created a nasty traffic mess during the already hectic Bay Area commute.

One thing both sides seem to agree on is that they don't want a strike.  The rest of the Bay Area is waiting to see the ink on the paper -- they certainly don't want a strike either.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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