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'Unprecedented' 4th mediator in talks to avert BART contract deadline on Wednesday

'Long ways to go...very far apart:' - BART spokesman

The state has dispatched an "unprecedented" fourth mediator to assist with negotiations between BART management and union leaders, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said today.

However Johnson said in a news briefing that the second day of state-mediated talks between the groups has not produced much movement.

"We have a long ways to go," he said. "We're very far apart."

On Friday, three state mediators arrived to assist with negotiations, just days before the transit agency's contract with 2,800 union employees expires at midnight on Tuesday. BART is facing a projected $250 million budget deficit over the next four years and is asking unions for $100 million in concessions, including paying a larger share of health care and other benefits.

Only one mediator was present during the last round of contract negotiations four years ago, Johnson said. "It's unprecedented to have four mediators doing bargaining."

According to Johnson, the unions are still requesting a 3 percent pay raise over the next two years. Despite his less-than-optimistic description of current talks, Johnson said BART is still hopeful they can reach an agreement before midnight Tuesday.

Members of BART's three largest unions, AFSCME Local 3993, Local 1555 of the Amalgamated Transit Union and Local 1021 of the Service Employees International Union, voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if leadership can't reach a contract agreement by then.

The vote authorizes union leadership to call for one if they deem it necessary. According to the terms of negotiations, workers must give at least 72 hours notice if they plan to strike. If unions decide to begin a strike Wednesday morning, as soon as their contract expires, they had to give notice last night. No word of such a notice has been issued yet today.

A BART strike would create a severe hardship for commuters across the Bay Area. BART trains carry about 360,000 passengers each weekday. Other area transit agencies, including SamTrans and Caltrain, have developed contingency transportation plans in the event of a strike.

Carlos Rivera of SEIU Local 1021 said, "We feel really hopeful that mediators will get us through this stalemate." Rivera said at this point union leadership has no specific plans to strike.

Johnson declined to discuss any such plans BART may have, saying mediators have only begin working with both sides. He praised BART's workers, but said fiscal realities make raises impossible.

"Let's get through the next few days and see where they go," he said. "This is not about the employees, it's about the economy."

The contract talks are continuing at a building at 2201 Broadway in downtown Oakland. BART workers have launched a Web site, www.runbartrun.org, to share updates from their perspective on negotiations and a possible strike. It also features a Twitter account that will let people know if they do decide to strike.

Allecia Vermillion, Bay City News

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Ronald Reagan
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2009 at 8:16 am

You'd think they would have learned after the overpaid air traffic controllers left their jobs. For good.


Like this comment
Posted by Toni
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Jun 25, 2009 at 8:31 am

What idiots. Aren't there hundreds of people that would love to even have a job. AND what does this mean for the 4th of July weekend and all the other people that use the already overpriced BART system?


Like this comment
Posted by unknown
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jun 25, 2009 at 8:44 am

Bart is a joke if the public really knew what went on behind closed
doors talk abought green yeah right they over spend all the time,
management in jobs they dont qualify for put there because of law suit or color,sexual persuasion etc. Arnold look at the sloppy mess there do un anouced internal audit on the system .


Like this comment
Posted by Lucky Guy
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Jun 25, 2009 at 8:58 am

Now is not the time to strike. Maybe Ridership ought to strike. Maybe not ride BART. In fact when will we all stop bitching and start PEACEFULLY demonstrate. A good ole March on Sacramento would be fun. AND maybe get the attention of the idiots in the Legislature.
Just venting and wishful thinking.


Like this comment
Posted by Real BART Workers
a resident of Deer Oaks/Twelve Oaks
on Jun 25, 2009 at 2:45 pm

WORKERS ARE NOT STRIKING. ON July 1, we will all be at work. Whether or not BART locks us out or not is the key point. Get the facts on the budget, the mismanagment of BART ($400K in bonuses to BART execs in 2008 and now they are crying deficit?!) at www.realbartworkers.org or on twitter at www.twitter.com/realbartworkers


Like this comment
Posted by sam
a resident of Downtown
on Jun 25, 2009 at 7:01 pm

im scared of the bart police!


Like this comment
Posted by Joey
a resident of Mission Park
on Jun 26, 2009 at 10:34 am

To RealBartWorkers,
I checked the site, there is not much there that is substative. The bottom line is,
a) two wrongs don't make a right (I.e. both the board and the workers are both overpaid) We need to work these two items separately. It doesn't give you the right to also be overpaid.
b) Your job expertise is relatively low, so simple economics dictate that you should be paid accordingly.

I personally hope that you strike/or are locked out. I would be looking for a 15% reduction in salary/benefits if I were negotiating on the board's side.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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