SAN FRANSCISCO—Labor negotiations resumed on Friday, August 2 between the Bay Area Rapid Transit and its labor union as an approaching strike deadline pressures both sides to reach a deal within three days.
On the previous night, the transit unions formally issued a 72-hour notice of an imminent strike, which will affect up to 400,000 Bay Area commuters come Monday, August 5 if negotiations fall through. Both sides continue to participate in heated discussions, highly reminiscent of similar stalled talks during the previous month’s first strike.
“Despite attempts by the union to negotiate a solution to contract issues during a 30-day contract extension, BART management has barely come to the bargaining table and continues to refuse to negotiate in good faith or make any progress on critical safety and wage issues,” stated SEIU Local 1021, one of the unions involved in negotiations, in a statement.
The BART unions decided to go on strike in July for approximately four days, before agreeing to call off the strike to extend their contract until August 4. The extended contracts expire by midnight at the end of the weekend, and commuters may face a strike on Monday morning.
On August 2, transportation agencies, including Caltrain, Sam Trans and San Francisco Muni, released service plans in case of a shut down. BART, according to its plans, will utilize free charter buses to help ease passenger plight; the transit company is also urging commuters to plan ahead.
“It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in the same situation that we were in 30 days ago, with no real progress made by management to address worker concerns about safety and wage cuts,” said Roxanne Sanchez, SEIU Local 1021 President. “BART management and their high-paid consultants cancelled meetings, their chief negotiator Thomas Hock went on vacation, and they’ve continued to attack workers in the press when they should have been finding ways to make BART safe and focusing on reaching a fair agreement.”
Key issues surrounding the negotiations include the amount of pay raise, contributions to health care and pensions, and worker safety. A transit worker reportedly earns on average around $71,000 and $11,000 in overtime annually, with no contribution to their pension and a flat $92 monthly for medical insurance, according the transit agency.
“It’s time BART management took bargaining seriously and stop holding the Bay Area hostage,” said Antonette Bryant, President Business Agent of ATU 1555. “Their actions are seriously irresponsible and disrespectful for the riding public as well as the workers who make BART work.”
Thus far, both sides have deliberated as to the specificities of the issues. Whereas BART is considering an almost 10 percent pay raise and significant pension and health contributions, the unions are aiming for a more than 20 percent pay increase and marginally higher payment benefits.
“Union leadership has given the District, a 72-hour strike notice. We are very disappointed and hope they reconsider their options. A strike only stalls and delays the decisions that need to be made while using our riders as pawns,” said BART spokesman Rick Rice in a statement. “BART is willing to stay at the table for as long as it takes to reach an agreement. Even if there isn’t a deal in place by Sunday night, talks can be extended.”
By Alex Mazariegos