OAKLAND (KCBS)—BART and its unions went back the bargaining table on Thursday as they await a decision from Gov. Brown over whether he will call for a 60-day cooling off period to prevent another potential strike Monday.
U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have now sent letters to both BART General Manager Grace Crunican and the leaders of the labor unions, urging all parties to reach an agreement on a new contract.
“We write to strongly encourage all parties involved in the BART contract negotiations to use the seven-day “cooling off period” declared by Governor Brown to end the labor dispute,” they wrote. “The Bay Area relies on a safe, affordable and reliable public transportation system, and any BART service disruption has significant impacts on our region’s economy and the hundreds of thousands of commuters who use the system.”
The senators said that, according to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the four-day disruption in July cost the Bay Area at least $73 million in lost productivity. They are urging the sides to negotiate in good faith.
Chris Daly, the political director for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said a strike is possible on Monday.
“SEIU and the other unions really want to negotiate and compromise,” Daly said.
But Daly also stressed that the unions do not want a 60-day cooling off period calling it “just another delay.”
If an agreement is not reached by Sunday, BART would prefer the cool-off period to a 2nd work stoppage.
“We had asked the unions if they simply wanted to extend the talks; they declined, so this is really only way to insure train operation,” BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said.
Based on the findings of the board of inquiry hearing on Wednesday, Brown can petition the court to call for that cooling-off period.
Under BART’s most recent proposal, its workers would receive a nine percent raise over four years while requiring them to contribute an increasing percentage to their pensions, starting with two percent in the first year.
The plan would also cap BART’s contribution to worker’s health care coverage at the lowest cost of either a Kaiser or Blue Shield Access family plan.
The unions are asking for a 15 percent raise over three years, and an extra 6.5 percent raise the first year. Members would contribute seven percent of their pension costs each year. And the union’s proposal would not allow health insurance premiums to increase by more than five percent per year.
Negotiations are also scheduled for and Friday.
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