Rail strike tests San Franciscans' patience

Laila Kearney
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With the BART transit system on strike, people line up along the Embarcadero near the Ferry Building to catch a ferry to Oakland, Calif., during the afternoon commute Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, in San Francisco. Frustrated bay area commuters started the work week Monday facing gridlocked roadways and long lines for buses and ferries as a major transit strike entered its fourth day, increasing pressure on negotiators to reach a deal that resumes train service. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A strike by commuter rail system workers in the San Francisco area entered a fourth day on Monday with no labor talks scheduled and forced some 400,000 daily commuters to find alternative means of getting to work.

Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, employees walked off the job on Friday after contract talks broke down over pay increases and workplace rules.

Among those waiting in long lines for a bus in San Francisco was Christian Cammerer, 31, a visiting researcher from Germany trying to get to work at the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley.

"Normally, it takes only 45 minutes tops. Today, I'm looking at a two-and-a-half-hour commute," Cammerer said at the city's crowded Transbay bus station.

The BART Board of Directors is set to meet in Oakland on Monday afternoon to discuss the talks with the transit system's general manager and its labor negotiations team.

Union representatives said late on Sunday they delivered a "new counterproposal" to management.

Commuter Harry Sadler, a 31-year-old Bay Area web producer, who expected to arrive at work in San Francisco two hours late on Monday, vented frustration at all sides for failing to resolve the four-day old strike.

"They've had so long to work out a deal...It just seems like laziness to me, laziness and inconsideration for the riders," said Sadler, who is exploring the possibility of working from home should the strike drag on.

Antonette Bryant, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said her union would put the latest contract offer to a vote, likely later in the week, but predicted it would be rejected, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The Service Employees International Union Local 1021, the other big union involved in the dispute, declined to say whether its members would vote on the offer, the newspaper reported.

Vigils were held on Sunday in honor of two workers who were struck and killed by a train as they checked a section of the track over the weekend. The National Transportation Safety Board began an investigation of the incident on Sunday.

The BART walkout is the second this year after unionized workers went on strike for 4-1/2 days in July.

(Additional reporting by Noel Randewich in San Francisco; Writing by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Eric Walsh and Leslie Gevirtz)