BART Trains Roll, Possible Strike Still Looms

BART trains rolled along as usual on Monday morning but a strike threat still loomed for 400,000 San Francisco Bay Area riders because management and unions still hadn't agreed on a compromise.

Bargaining broke off at 2:45 a.m. Monday and was scheduled to resume again at 10:30 a.m.

The new strike deadline is now set for Tuesday at 12:01 a.m.

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"We need to bring this to a close, it's gone on long enough," BART's General Manager Grace Crunican said late Sunday night. BART offered its "last, best and final offer," upping its four-year offer for pay increases from 10.25 percent to 12 percent. 

For the unions part, Antonett Bryant, leader of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said progress was being made, but the deal still wasn't sweet enough for the workers.

Riders on Monday said they were just sick of the ups and downs of a possible strike.

"Just get it together and get things done," Tony Hardin told NBC Bay Area from the Walnut Creek BART station. "It's kind of hard on people. I don't think they're thinking about everyday people."

For Antonio Smith, the planning around the possible strike is just a big headache. Take the ferry? Join a carpool?

"The unknown is tricky," he said.

MORE: BART Strike Resources

This new strike deadline follows after a weekend of negotiations. And as there were encouraging words of hope early Sunday from both sides, as the day turned to night, things began to turn bleak.

Sticking points in the 6-month-old negotiations include salaries and workers' contributions to their health and pension plans. BART workers currently pay $92 a month for health care and contribute nothing toward their pensions  - generous benefits BART management is seeking to curtail. BART said workers from the two unions now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. Labor leaders were also pressing demands to make stations safer, such as better lighting in tunnels, bulletproof glass in agents' booths and improved restroom access.

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

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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.

BART workers went on strike in July, walking off the job for nearly five days.

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee released the following statement on Monday:

“I urge both BART union and management to demonstrate the leadership necessary to get this deal done and end the uncertainty, frustration and cost to Bay Area commuters and the entire region. It is their duty and obligation to reach a fair and responsible agreement that will set BART on a sustainable fiscal path and one that honors workers and the traveling public.

People’s very livelihoods hang in the balance adding to the additional frustration felt throughout the Bay Area today when both parties failed yesterday to reach an agreement.

BART carries hundreds of thousands of workers, students and families throughout our Bay Area. A BART strike hurts the very people we are obligated to serve. Again, I urge all parties, in the strongest possible terms, to come to an agreement today.”

The Associated Press, NBC Bay Area's Monte Francis and Chase Cain contributed to this report.

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