OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — 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.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit agency and two of its largest unions, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, were expected to resume negotiations at 10 a.m. Friday.
A 60-day cooling-off period that prohibited a strike ended the previous night, but union leaders said they would continue talks, and members would stay on the job Friday.
BART chief negotiator Thomas Hock said BART would present a new proposal to the unions.
BART Board members and possibly General Manager Grace Crunican would be joining the talks, SEIU 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez said.
"We believe that these developments can only help bring a resolution to these long, drawn out negotiations," Sanchez said. "And for this reason, we will continue bargaining through the weekend."
BART spokesman Rick Rice said in a statement early Friday that trains on the nation's fifth-largest rail system would be running — for now.
"We are grateful the Bay Area will not be impacted by our unions for the next few days and that the trains will be running while we continue to negotiate," he said.
With no agreement in place and the cooling-off period over, some 2,300 BART workers could have walked off the job on Friday — and an estimated 400,000 commuters could have been left stranded for a second time in recent months. BART workers went on strike for 4 1/2 days in July, leading to crowded buses and jammed bridges and roadways before Gov. Jerry Brown mandated the cooling-off period.
BART links far-flung suburbs to bigger Bay Area cities and provides a crucial link under the bay between San Francisco and Oakland.
Labor talks initially began in April and have at times been contentious. The two sides have reached agreement on pension contributions but are still at odds over compensation, health care and safety.
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. The workers' pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.
State transportation officials released a statement late Thursday saying they'll expand the hours of high-occupancy vehicle lanes should a strike come. BART management has said it would offer limited free charter bus service across the Bay Bridge.