BART commuters were holding their collective breath Monday, awaiting a possible 72-hour strike notice from the transit system’s workers.
With just over three days remaining in a court-ordered 60-day cooling off period, BART management and its two major unions were back at the bargaining table attempting to hammer out a new deal.
“We need to discuss that (giving a 72-hour notice) as a group so we're hopeful we can let the public know if that's the case, but again we're going to continue to do the positive thing which is continue to negotiate and work hard,” said SEIU negotiator Saul Almanza. “We hope we can give a report of getting a contract done versus giving a 72 hour notice,” he continued.
After reaching an agreement on pensions late last week, the two parties have been locked in a battle over wages and health benefits.
Wages still remain the major obstacle although the two sides have narrowed the gap between proposals to some $89 million.
“We had a 10 percent wage increase on the table over 4 years, we've increased that,” BART spokesman Jim Allison said of the agency’s latest offer. “We also have provided the opportunity for thousands of dollars in the private industry would call bonuses if ridership and the economy meet certain measures.”
The two sides are facing a 12:01 a.m. Oct. 10th expiration of a 60-day cooling off period that Gov. Jerry Brown was granted by San Francisco judge back in August hours before workers were preparing to strike for the second time since late June. The workers did walk off the job for 4 ½ days in early July but the impact of the strike was lessened by the July 4th holiday. Still, there were major traffic jams in the Bay Area and commutes into the city were lengthened by hours.
Watchdogs are questioning an exclusive agreement between the City of Oakland and a non-profit group, tapped to lead a multi-million dollar project to redevelop the area around the Coliseum BART station.