OAKLAND (CBS SF) – California Gov. Jerry Brown appointed a board to investigate the contract dispute between Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District and one of its unions, putting off the threat of a strike this week.

Negotiators for the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District returned to the negotiating table Wednesday, hours ahead of a midnight strike deadline. All this comes as Bay Area Rapid Transit officials continue to work on a deal with unions to avert a strike on their system.

AC Transit workers had given notice that they will walk off the job Thursday, and their union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, has made no promise to retract that notice as they resumed negotiations.

But just after 4 p.m., Brown released a statement which read:

At the request of the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, I am appointing a board to investigate the strike noticed by ATU Local 192 that threatens to disrupt public transportation services in the Bay Area. This board is appointed under the authority of Government Code section 3612, subdivision (a), because a strike will, if permitted to occur, significantly disrupt public transportation services and endanger the public’s health, safety, or welfare.

The three individuals appointed to the board of investigation are: Peter Southworth, Josie Camacho, Micki Callahan

If Brown decides that a 60-day cooling-off period would be appropriate after the investigation, he would then ask a court to order one, said spokesperson Evan Westrup.

A similar process was followed when BART management sought and was granted a cooling-off period in its labor dispute this summer.

AC Transit, which logs about 200,000 daily bus rides in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, has reached a contract agreement with union leaders twice previously—most recently on Oct. 1 — but union members have rejected both.

AC Transit management said it is offering employees a 9.5 percent pay increase over three years. According to management, that offer would give employees an average of an additional $5,529 in annual income even after their medical contributions are factored in.

Referring to the possibility that workers could go on strike on Thursday, AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson said Tuesday, “We were hoping we wouldn’t be in this position.”

Johnson said a strike by AC Transit workers “would severely impact life in the Bay Area as we know it,” and if it occurred at the same time as a strike by BART employees, it would be “catastrophic.”

He said the last time AC Transit employees went on strike was in 1977.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.)

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