SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Progress was made in BART labor contract negotiations on Thursday after unions presented a counter offer to the transit system’s management.

According to Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant, there has been an agreement on pensions.

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“We made an agreement. It’s a cost-neutral agreement for every dollar put in, they’ll give us .7214. It’s the percentage. It’s a cost-neutral swap and it’s something that will benefit our workers,” Bryant said.

Both sides have been busy crunching numbers with a looming sense of urgency since next Thursday is the expiration for the court-ordered 60-day cooling off period suggested by Governor Jerry Brown.

Jim Allison, BART’s Chief Deputy Chief Communications Officer, said management has had a “fair deal” on the table since August 10th.

“We’ve been trying to strike a deal before the cooling off period. We think a 10-percent raise over four years is a fair deal,” Allison said.

BART is working with a four-year contract, but the unions want that shortened to three. The two sides still remain at odds over wages and health care. The unions have countered BART’s wage proposal with an offer of profit sharing based on ridership increases.

In a related development Thursday, the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored advocacy organization, and a coalition of leading Bay Area business groups said a survey they conducted found that 63 percent of residents in the counties served by BART said workers should accept management’s current contract offer and only 6 percent said management should accept the union’s latest offer.

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The business groups said 76 percent of those who participated in the survey oppose a BART strike, an increase from the 70 percent who opposed a strike in a similar survey in August.

The survey also found that even in households that had a union member 54 percent of respondents said BART workers should accept management’s offer.

In addition, 78 percent of poll participants agreed that BART should use any available funding to upgrade, repair and maintain its transit system, which BART officials say operates the nation’s oldest fleet of rail cars and is facing $16.5 billion in upgrades and repairs over the next 30 years.

The survey was conducted by EMC Research in Oakland from Sept. 29 through Oct. 2 and involved 509 people in the four counties serviced by BART:

Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo. The business groups said the survey has a margin of error of 4.3 percent.

Jim Wunderman, the president and chief executive of the Bay Area Council, said in a statement, “The message from the public couldn’t be clearer, more direct and more urgent. BART workers deserve a fair contract and what BART is offering provides that while also ensuring BART can make the critical and necessary investments to maintain and upgrade the system.”

Greg McConnell, the president and chief executive of the Oakland-based Jobs and Housing Coalition, said, “A BART strike will severely affect the economy of the entire Bay Area and bring great harm to working men and women who must rely on BART to commute to and from work.”

McConnell said, “We urge our friends in labor to review the findings in the Bay Area Business Coalition poll and keep BART running. Please do not strike!”

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