By Laila Kearney
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Commuter rail workers in San Francisco will go on strike on Friday unless a last-minute deal with management on a contract is reached before midnight on Thursday, an employee union said.
The plan for a strike on Friday follows a series of marathon bargaining sessions between the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) management and employee unions that have dragged well into the night every day this week, but have so far not produced a deal.
The sides have been at loggerheads over pay and benefits for more than 2,000 train drivers and other union workers who are demanding pay raises in part to offset being asked to contribute to their pensions and other benefits.
The sides have now reached an "overall understanding" on economic issues, but remain at odds over workplace rules, according to Roxanne Sanchez, who represents one of two main unions in talks with management.
Sanchez, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said that BART management was "withholding settlement because they want to fundamentally and significantly change the conditions under which we work."
"At midnight tonight, unless there were something to change, workers will be forced out on strike," she said in a statement.
The BART trains are used for more than 400,000 rides each day in the Northern California region, where traffic is among the worst in the United States. A four-and-a-half-day BART strike in July forced some residents to miss work and others to endure commutes of three hours or more.
(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)