OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A recipe for gridlock was brewing in the San Francisco Bay Area, as two of the region's major transit agencies teetered on the brink of commute-crippling strikes.
While talks between the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency and its unions to avoid the second walk-off in four months were set to resume on Tuesday, workers at a major regional bus line said they would go on strike in 72 hours.
Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District workers are set to walk off the job on Thursday after issuing the 72-hour strike notice Monday. AC Transit buses serve the East Bay and also provide service in and out of San Francisco.
BART is the nation's fifth-largest rail system and AC Transit's buses carry about 100,000 people roundtrip each day. The buses served as alternative transportation for many BART train riders during a nearly five-day strike in July. Both BART's and AC Transit's contracts expired in June. AC Transit workers have since rejected two contract proposals.
BART was running trains on a normal schedule on Tuesday after unions and management agreed to extend labor talks past a midnight Monday deadline.
Federal mediator George Cohen told reporters around 1 a.m. Tuesday that "intense negotiations" would go on through the night. The parties concluded talks around 5:30 a.m. and were set to resume in the afternoon.
"Bargaining has produced some constructive and productive progress," Cohen said.
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 had said they would go on strike if they didn't reach a contract deal by midnight Monday after extending stalled negotiations from over the weekend.
However, a sign that some progress was being made came late Monday when SEIU Local 1021 executive director Pete Castelli told reporters that the unions had sent BART a counterproposal that was being discussed by management.
"We did make movement," Castelli said. "We want people to know we are up there working."
Sticking points in the 6-month-old negotiations between BART management and the unions include salaries and workers' contributions to their health and pension plans. BART officials confirmed early Tuesday that some progress has been made but economic issues still need to be hammered out.
BART General Manager Grace Crunican said that a "last, best and final offer" presented to the unions Sunday was $7 million higher than a proposal presented Friday. It includes an annual 3 percent raise over four years and requires workers to contribute 4 percent toward their pension and 9.5 percent toward medical benefits.
Crunican said the unions had two weeks to accept the deal before it would be taken off the table.
Castelli said Monday that the parties were somewhere between $6 million to $10 million apart over four years.
Workers from the two unions, which represent more than 2,300 mechanics, custodians, station agents, train operators and clerical staff, now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually, the transit agency said. BART workers currently pay $92 a month for health care and contribute nothing toward their pensions.
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