After six strike deadlines and one actual strike in the last year, BART trains will run Tuesday after union leaders called off a strike to continue bargaining with the transit agency's management management.
Shortly after 1 a.m. Tuesday, federal mediator George Cohen announced that BART and union representatives will continue contract negotiation talks through the morning and that BART train service will not be interrupted for the San Francisco Bay Area's estimated 400,000 riders.
More negotiations are scheduled to resume 1 p.m. Tuesday.
BART - the nation's fifth-largest rail system - has been considering a counter offer submitted late Monday by the union. Compounding the commuting issue for Bay Area residents is the threat of another strike - by AC Transit bus workers, who carry about 200,00 riders a day, and who might go on strike Thursday if their demands aren't met.
Pete Castelli, the executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said he could not share details of the counter offer but said, "We did make movement."
Speaking to reporters outside the Caltrans building in Oakland, where BART management has been meeting with union negotiators, Castelli advised commuters to "prepare for alternative transportation" to get to work on Tuesday in case an agreement isn't reached by midnight.
BART Board President Tom Radulovich said a last, best and final offer presented by management on Sunday represents the "outer limit" of what the transit agency can offer its workers.
The offer includes a three percent raise for each of the contract's four years, retroactive to July 5, but also requires employees to make a 4 percent pension contribution and a 9.5 percent contribution to their health benefits, according to BART officials. The unions said the parties were about $16 million apart over four years.
BART has said the union has two weeks to accept its offer.
MORE: BART Strike Resources
San Francisco mayor Ed Lee released the following statement on Monday:
“I urge both BART union and management to demonstrate the leadership necessary to get this deal done and end the uncertainty, frustration and cost to Bay Area commuters and the entire region. It is their duty and obligation to reach a fair and responsible agreement that will set BART on a sustainable fiscal path and one that honors workers and the traveling public.
Sticking points in the 6-month-old negotiations include salaries and workers' contributions to their health and pension plans. BART workers currently pay $92 a month for health care and contribute nothing toward their pensions - generous benefits BART management is seeking to curtail. BART said workers from the two unions now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. Labor leaders were also pressing demands to make stations safer, such as better lighting in tunnels, bulletproof glass in agents' booths and improved restroom access.
Over the weekend, politicians called on the unions not to strike, saying that the two sides had seen significant movement in the last few days. They also seemed to call out BART management for putting a "final offer" on the table Sunday afternoon and calling off talks. They asked BART to return to the table and continue negotiations and not to make the offer made Sunday a "final" offer.
BART workers went on strike in July, walking off the job for nearly five days.
People’s very livelihoods hang in the balance adding to the additional frustration felt throughout the Bay Area today when both parties failed yesterday to reach an agreement.
BART carries hundreds of thousands of workers, students and families throughout our Bay Area. A BART strike hurts the very people we are obligated to serve. Again, I urge all parties, in the strongest possible terms, to come to an agreement today.”
The contract talks involve SEIU Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers.
The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.