SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Negotiators for BART and its labor unions returned to the bargaining able Monday to try once again to agree on a new contract and avert a strike.
BART talks were reported to have ended at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday night, but KCBS learned that they actually continued until about 2:45 a.m. Monday morning. While that appeared to be good news, BART’s best and final offer at the last minute—when according to negotiators and legislators, both sides were making progress—was seen a potentially detrimental.
But Harley Shaiken, a labor expert at U.C. Berkeley, said it’s uncommon that one side would come in with a last minute offer unless, despite public comments to the contrary, discussions were not going well.
“They issued an ultimatum. The tone of an ultimatum in the final hours of a negotiation is not constructive. It can harden positions on both sides and the result of that could be a strike,” he said.
BART General Manager Grace Crunican said the agency is offering empolyees a 3 percent raise for each year of the four-year contract, retroactive to July 5. The contract also calls for employees to make a 4 percent pension contribution and 9.5 percent medical contribution.
A best-and-final offer does open the possibility that BART could impose a contract on the unions at some point. All of the uncertainty, however, has frustrated BART commuters.
“I kind of feel like I’m being held hostage, you know?” one commuter told KCBS.
BART workers went on strike for several days at the beginning of July but returned to the bargaining table at the request of Gov. Jerry Brown.
Brown eventually sought a 60-day cooling-off period, which was granted by a judge but expired at midnight last Thursday.
Talks have continued past that deadline, however, and Bay Area residents are continuing to head to bed each work night not knowing whether BART will be running for their morning commutes.
The unions are now saying they will go on strike on Tuesday if an agreement isn’t reached today.
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