Bart Strike Averted, Negotiations Continue Monday

BART trains will roll for the Monday morning commute.

By Monte Francis, Lori Preuitt and wires
|  Monday, Oct 14, 2013  |  Updated 6:56 AM EDT
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BART Unions have announced they will not walk off the job Monday, but there is still a possibility of a strike on Tuesday. NBC Bay Area's Monte Francis reports from Oakland with the latest, and Kimberly Tere reports from the Dublin-Pleasanton BART station with what riders said.

BART Unions have announced they will not walk off the job Monday, but there is still a possibility of a strike on Tuesday. NBC Bay Area's Monte Francis reports from Oakland with the latest, and Kimberly Tere reports from the Dublin-Pleasanton BART station with what riders said.

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A Monday morning BART strike threatening the commute for 400,000 San Francisco Bay Area riders was averted late Sunday as union members decided to give management one more day to come up with a contract that is agreeable to its members. 

The new deadline for a possible strike is Monday at midnight.

The contract negotiation between BART management and two of its unions went down to the wire Sunday with a potential commute-crippling strike on the line. 

Without a deal by midnight, BART union members warned they would stop trains in their tracks Monday morning - leaving riders looking for another way to travel. Now that threat has moved to Tuesday. 

There were encouraging words of hope early Sunday from both sides, but as the day turned to night, things began to turn bleak.

Just after 10 p.m., state lawmakers who had been taking part in the negotiations this weekend held an impromptu news conference outside the negotiations.

The politicians called on the unions not to strike, saying that the two sides had seen significant movement in the last few days. They also seemed to call out BART management for putting a "final offer" on the table Sunday afternoon and calling off talks. They asked BART to return to the table and continue negotiations and not to make the offer made Sunday a "final" offer.

"We have asked labor to hold off on any strike action, and it's our understanding that they are willing to take more time, and that's what we're encouraging," Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) said.

At 10:30 union leaders came out and announced union members would be going to work Monday.

"We are not going on strike because the public deserves to have a riding system that works," union spokeswoman Antoinette Bryant said. "We will give the district one more day. One more day to get it together."

Things appear to have fallen apart when BART negotiators left the negotiation location at 5 p.m. telling reporters that the agency put what they thought was a fair deal on the table and were waiting to hear back form the federal mediator. They were summoned back to the table at 7:15 p.m. presumably to hear from that mediator. 

When reporters asked BART's chief negotiator Tom Hock about the chances of reaching a deal Sunday night, he said, "I couldn’t tell you. That’s up to them. I think we put out a good proposal. They have to decide if that meets their needs."

Prior to putting that deal on the table, Hock said, "We're making some progress" as he entered the CalTrans  building to meet with mediator.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom joined the talks Sunday. Newsom also had positive words saying that a deal appeared close.

At a noon press briefing Bryant, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said she was cautiously optimistic that today's negotiations would end in a deal.

She said her union's members were still prepared to strike at midnight should BART fail to meet its workers on key issues, including salaries and health benefit contributions. "We are hopeful that we will get a deal today," Bryant said. "But we have not spent this much time at the table to take something that is not going to benefit our members and the riding public. That is not acceptable."

Both sides of the BART contract negotiations left the bargaining table Saturday just before 10 p.m. Non one gave many details on the state of the negotiations other than to say they were ready for a "long day tomorrow."

The contract deadline was at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The deadline has now been pushed one more day.

If a deal isn't reached by Tuesday morning, trains may not roll, leaving 400,000 commuters looking for another way to work.

As of Sunday night, BART management has not yet said whether they are willing to return to the negotiating table.

Hock said late Saturday from his standpoint, they are "a lot more than halfway there."

BART train operator Chris Finn said the union is currently waiting for a response to some ideas the union presented. Finn said plenty of details have been agreed on, but the heavy issues like health care and salary are still to be discussed.

"They seem to be fixed on some certain points and it seems to be more political than economic or financial," Finn said.

Contracts talks were delayed for hours from their original 9:30 a.m. start time as smaller groups on each side met separately. A face to face meeting with all the key players did resume by the afternoon.
 
Saturday's bargaining session followed a marathon 12 hour session on Friday.
 
The unions want a raise of nearly 12 percent over three years while BART has proposed a 10 percent increase over four years. BART said workers from the two unions now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually.

There are new people at the negotiating table this weekend, including BART's general manager Grace Crunican.

Crunican spent the Friday hearing concerns from union officials and said she is "trying to get some feedback on what it's going to take to  get to a deal," BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost.

The union also announced BART board members and Bay Area legislative leaders are now involved and engaged in negotiations.

It was not clear Saturday if BART had presented its newest contract offer.

Trost said Friday a new contract offer that BART officials had previously planned to present Friday -- the details of which have been withheld at the request of a federal mediator -- would now be presented on Saturday at the soonest.

A union spokesperson said talks seem productive and involved an informal exchange of ideas.
 
Both sides agreed to extend their contract negotiations through the weekend, which averted a chaotic commute Friday.

Unlike earlier this week, union leaders issued a 72-hour strike notice, clearing the way for a possible Monday morning strike.

"We believe that these developments can only help bring a resolution to these drawn-out negotiations and for this reason, we will continue bargaining through the weekend," the union said in a statement.

Service Employees International Union Local 1021 represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers.

MORE: BART Strike Resource Guide

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

Bay City News and NBC Bay Area's Chase Cain and Christie Smith contributed to this report.

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