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Judge Orders 60-Day Cooling Off Period For BART; Strike Averted For Now

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Judge Curtis Karnow

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow ordered BART and its unions on Sunday morning not to threaten or engage in a strike for 60 days. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS/KPIX 5) — A San Francisco Superior Court judge on Sunday granted California Gov. Jerry Brown’s request for a 60-day cooling-off period for Bay Area Rapid Transit and its two main unions, averting the chance of any strike for now.

BART trains will continue to run until at least Oct. 10, during which time the two sides are expected to negotiate further.

In his ruling, Judge Curtis Karnow agreed with Brown that a potential work stoppage by BART employees would substantially disrupt public transportation and threaten public safety and welfare.

RELATED CONTENT: Download The Court Ruling On BART (.pdf)

Brown’s court request, which was filed Friday, came after a panel he appointed to investigate the labor dispute concluded that a second strike for the nation’s fifth-largest rail system would cause significant public harm.

The unions went on strike last month, shutting down BART service for four days and impacting more than 400,000 commuters. Another strike was set for Aug. 5 when Brown intervened and appointed the panel to investigate the contract dispute.

The Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 had warned they would go on strike again Monday if they couldn’t reach an agreement on a new labor contract with BART management.

BART management supported a cooling off-period, but union leaders said it would reduce the urgency to negotiate.

“It delays things for us,” SEIU 1021 spokesman Des Patten said after the order was issued. “Unfortunately, it takes some of the pressure off to get things done.”

Nonetheless, neither attorneys for the unions or BART voiced objection to the judge’s ruling at Sunday’s court hearing, which was the first weekend hearing to occur in San Francisco Superior Court in 15 years.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and others praised Brown on Sunday for taking the court action to avoid another strike.

“I applaud Gov. Brown for taking the steps necessary so that Bay Area residents will not endure another unbearable BART strike, including ordering a court-approved 60-day cooling off period,” Lee said. “A BART strike is not just an inconvenience anymore, but will cause undue hardship for many.”

Union and BART leaders planned to resume negotiations Sunday afternoon in the hopes of reaching a resolution in the contract talks, which have been ongoing for over four months. But the two sides remained millions of dollars apart on wages, pensions and health care benefits.

BART management made a new offer late Saturday night that the unions were still reviewing on Sunday. “We need to go through it,” Patten said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The unions’ four-year contract with BART ended on June 30 and a new contract could be three or four years long, negotiators said. If no agreement is reached before the end of the 60-day cooling off period, workers would then have the right to strike at any time.

(Copyright 2013 CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)

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