Phil Matier: BART Labor Negotiations Down To Crunch Time
OAKLAND (KCBS) – With just days left before the end of a cooling off period, Bay Area Rapid Transit labor talks resumed Monday, but union officials stopped short of issuing a 72-hour strike notice.
Last week, it appeared that BART and the unions were making a little progress at the bargaining table, with union leaders offering to reduce their wage requests. It also looked like there was an apparent agreement on pensions.
As of Monday, BART officials said the two sides were still $98 million apart on wages and benefits.
“That $89 million gap that they talk about is for all the workers at BART including management – that number should be much smaller,” said SEIU representative Saul Almanza.
President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 Antonette Bryant spoke at a news conference at around 5 p.m. and the transit system’s unions are concerned about the impact of a disruption of train service and that they want all options to remain on the table.
Bryant made some analogies of the BART negotiations to current events including the A’s being in baseball’s playoffs as well as the government shutdown and partisan bickering in Washington D.C.
“Right now our country is being held hostage by a small group in Washington D.C. and here in the Bay Area, the public is being held hostage as well as the union membership by a small group of BART leadership who have refused to show that leadership,” Bryant said. “We do not want a strike. We want that to be made perfectly clear. We want a deal.”
Also Monday, BART officials confirmed that they have already reserved buses to be used for shuttle service in case of a strike.
“Initially we’ll have about 150 and then if we need to we’ll get up to 200,” said Jim Allison of BART. “It’s $900,000 (that) we’ve already secured (for) buses for one week- and so we are working in the possibility of a second week now. So that money has already been deposited.”
SEIU Local 1021 and ATU Local 1555 walked off the job for four days in July before returning to the bargaining table for 30 days at the request of Gov. Jerry Brown. When that failed to yield a deal, Brown imposed a 60 day cooling off period to head off an August strike.
If no deal is made by the end of the cooling off period that expires at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, two of the transit agency’s largest unions could walk off the job on Friday morning.
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