BART spokesman Linton Johnson said Thursday that contract talks between management and the transit agency's 2,824 union workers "are moving in a positive direction, albeit a slow one."
Johnson said the two sides, which have been negotiating since April 1, will meet throughout the July Fourth weekend in hopes of reaching an agreement by July 9, when the contract for union employees expires.
The contract had been scheduled to expire at midnight on June 30, but both sides agreed last weekend to extend the deadline after state mediators became involved in the talks.
Referring to both sides, Johnson said, "People are pretty positive in the negotiating room now and people are ready to work over the Fourth of July weekend."
Carlos Rivera, a spokesman for Local 1021 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 1,200, mechanics, custodians, safety inspectors and clerical employees, agreed that some progress is being made.
Rivera said, "So far so good. Negotiations are moving along and we plan to negotiate throughout the weekend."
He said talks have been going better since mediators got involved last Friday, saying the difference is "day and night."
Johnson said BART's board of directors has scheduled meetings for every day between today and the July 9 deadline in order to comply with open meeting laws that require at least 24 hours notice before meetings are held.
But he said the board won't actually meet unless there is something significant for them to discuss.
He said management is trying to save $100 million in labor costs because it faces a projected $250 million deficit over the next four years.
But Carlos Rivera, a spokesman for Local 1021 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 1,200, mechanics, custodians, safety inspects and clerical employees, said management must also do more to cut costs.
As an example, he cited the BART board's vote last month to spend $522 million to build a 3.2-mile elevated tramway from the Oakland Coliseum station to the Oakland International Airport instead of the less costly alternative of spending $45 million to $60 million for a rapid bus service.
Rivera said union members are "celebrating" the fact that last Saturday an agreement was reached to extend the current contract until July 9.
Johnson alleged that union members want to keep their current contract as long as possible because they want to keep their current wages and benefits.