OAKLAND (KCBS) — Bay Area Rapid Transit’s lead negotiator is presenting union leaders with a new proposal Thursday, the final day of talks before the end of the 60-day-cooling off period.

Thomas Hock, who works at a private transportation company, was hired by BART management and said he has new authority to put an offer on the table since BART’s General Manager Grace Crunican will not be at the bargaining table.

“I’ve always had the authority. I mean there’s no reason for anybody else to be here. When I negotiate in San Jose, Long Beach, Palm Springs, San Diego, wherever; the general manager is not ever with me,” Hock explained.

He said his offer is something unions can take back to their membership for a vote.

“I think it’s a reasonable offer. I think it’s a good offer in comparison to what’s going on in the Bay Area or anywhere else.”

Meanwhile, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 spokeswoman Antonette Bryant, who was seen taking a bag on wheels into negotiations Thursday afternoon, said she’s prepared to go as long as it takes.

Bryant said both sides came extremely close to an agreement on Wednesday, but that was before what she called a misunderstanding of sorts.

A 60-day cooling-off period expires on Thursday night at midnight and BART workers could go on strike on Friday if there’s no agreement by then.

“I’m not sure the midnight deadline means anything or not, you’d have to ask Antoinette and Josie [Mooney, Service Employees International Union 1021 chief negotiator] whether or not the midnight deadline means anything with respect to what ends up happening. I don’t know,” Hock said.

Bryant retorted that Hocks’ comments on the midnight deadline were “cavalier”

“That’s up to the unions,” she said paraphrasing Hock. “No it is not. There’s a deadline. We don’t have the right to hold members of the public hostage.”

As far as the potential strike, Bryant said to be prepared, but assured that they are working diligently to get their issues resolved.

Bryant said the unions are anxious to look at the agency’s new proposal, and they remain optimistic about reaching a deal.

Earlier Thursday, Cecille Isidro, a spokeswoman for SEIU Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, said union leaders hope that BART General Manager Grace Crunican will participate in the contract talks Thursday.

“We need to reach an agreement as soon as possible, and she needs to be at the table,” Isidro said.

Crunican previously has said she doesn’t need to be at the bargaining table because BART’s negotiators know what management’s position is.

BART management began negotiating with SEIU Local 1021 and ATU Local 1555 on April 1.

The workers previously went on strike for four and a half days at the beginning of July but finally agreed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s request that they return to the bargaining table for another 30 days.

When the second round of talks failed, Brown asked for a 60-day cooling-off period, and that period ends at midnight.

Union leaders said Monday evening that they weren’t ready to give their customary 72-hour strike notice, but also said they were keeping all of their options on the table, including going on strike.

The notice is a courtesy but is not mandatory.

According to spokesman Jim Allison, BART and the unions remain split on issues such as wages and employees’ contributions to health care and pension costs.

SEIU Local 1021 and ATU Local 1555 alleged in a joint statement Wednesday night that BART negotiators “pulled the rug from underneath the unions as well as the entire Bay Area” by withdrawing an offer that had brought the parties close to an agreement.

But Allison said “any suggestion that BART offered a proposal and withdrew it is categorically untrue” and blamed the confusion on “a miscommunication that wasn’t on BART’s part.”

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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