The Strike Clock’s Ticking: BART Talks To Resume Later Today

With only 36 hours remaining before a 60-day cooling-off period expires, negotiators for BART management and its labor unions are expected to return to the bargaining table later today to try to avoid a possible strike, BART spokesman Jim Allison said.

Negotiators for BART and Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers, met until about 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Caltrans building at 111 Grand Ave. in Oakland, Allison said.

BART negotiators then returned to the transit agency’s headquarters nearby to discuss their strategy until late in the night, he said.

BART officials are continuing to discuss their strategy today and are waiting for a federal mediator to tell them when face-to-face talks will resume, Allison said this morning.

Union officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment today.

The 60-day cooling-off period ordered by a judge on Aug. 11 at the request of BART management and Gov. Jerry Brown expires on Thursday night and BART workers could go on strike on Friday if there’s no agreement by then.

Union leaders said on Monday evening that they weren’t ready to give their customary 72-hour strike notice but also said they were keeping all of their options on the table, including going on strike.

Allison said BART management is willing to continue negotiating if an agreement isn’t reached by the end of the day on Thursday but agency officials are also encouraging BART riders to plan ahead and think about finding alternative ways to get to work on Friday in case there’s a strike.

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.

Allison said BART and the unions remain apart on economic issues such as wages and employees’ contributions for health care and pension costs.

He said the federal mediator has asked both sides not to talk about the specifics of their proposals.

Last week, the unions said they were asking for employees to get an 11.5 percent increase over three years: 3.75 percent for each of the first two years and 4 percent in the third year and BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said BART was offering a 10 percent increase over four years.

The unions also were asking that for each tenth of a percent ridership increase above BART projections, workers would get an additional tenth of a percent raise.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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