A long weekend of talks are in store for negotiators for BART management and its two unions, who are working to avert a second strike in less than three months.
The unions have vowed to strike if no new labor agreement is reached by Monday, forcing hundreds of thousands of commuters in the nation's fifth-largest rail system to find other ways to work.
With state legislators acting as facilitators and BART's general manager listening to proposals much of the day Friday, the two sides did not discuss specific developments but said the day saw a shift that could lead to a weekend agreement.
"The elements are here that are needed for the two sides to come together," said Pete Castelli, executive director for the Service Employees International Union local 1021.
A BART news release said the talks adjourned for the night at 10 p.m. Friday and would resume at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning. The statement said no further details of the day's discussions were being released.
The SEIU and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 agreed to keep negotiating after a 60-day, state-mandated cooling-off period that prohibited a strike expired Friday, saying their 2,300 members would stay on the job at least through Sunday night.
The unions said BART General Manager Grace Crunican's presence in talks Friday made a difference — they had repeatedly criticized her for not being more involved.
"The unions have been clear that they feel that Grace would be helpful in the process," BART spokesman Jim Allison said. "She's been abreast of all of the developments on a daily basis, hourly basis, sometimes."
ATU leader Antonette Bryant said they wanted Crunican at the table "because she's the dealmaker. She's the one who can say yay, nay or whatever."
Service Employees International Union Local 1021 spokesman Des Patten said Friday's talks seemed productive and involved an informal exchange of ideas.
Patten said Crunican has asked union leaders to explain their positions and concerns and to outline details of their last proposal to her.
"She hasn't said when they might present us with anything but I would characterize it as a positive move, and hopefully it will lead to a positive end," Patten said.
"But we'll see," he added.
BART workers went on strike for nearly 5 days in July before Gov. Jerry Brown mandated the cooling-off period.
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.
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