SF Bay Area transit talks yet to resume

PAUL ELIAS
October 12, 2013
In this file photo from Monday, July 1, 2013, commuters wait in standstill traffic to pay their tolls on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in Oakland, Calif. A major San Francisco Bay Area transit system ran trains as usual on Friday after labor negotiations were extended past a midnight deadline, but the threat of a commute-disrupting strike loomed with the unions promising to walk off the job Monday if weekend talks fail to reach a deal. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Talks between the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system and its two unions were put on hold Saturday morning as each side used the time to meet separately amid hopes that a second commuter-crippling strike in less than three months can be averted.

The unions have vowed to walk off if no new labor agreement is reached by Monday, a move that would force hundreds of thousands of commuters in the nation's fifth-largest rail system to find other ways to work.

BART workers went on strike for nearly five days in July before Gov. Jerry Brown mandated the cooling-off period.

Transit spokeswoman Alicia Trost said BART's general manager plans to attend the talks for the second day in a row when they resume sometime Saturday. The unions said BART General Manager Grace Crunican's presence in talks had made a difference after they had repeatedly criticized her for not being more involved.

Both sides met for 12 hours at BART's headquarters in Oakland on Friday and had been expected to resume bargaining at 9:30 a.m. PDT Saturday. Instead, the talks were put off so each side could meet in "caucus" Saturday morning.

The unions want a raise of nearly 12 percent over three years while BART has proposed a 10 percent increase over four years. BART said workers from the two unions now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually.

Trost said BART plans to offer riders free trips on buses if the unions do strike.

Trost also said a dozen managers have been certified to operate BART trains, but that the transit agency isn't planning to use them immediately. She said the BART board of directors would have to approve the use of managers as train operators.

"The board would need to decide if they want BART to operate limited train service by managers," Trost said. "That isn't the plan right now. "