BART spokesman Linton Johnson said Wednesday that management is "intent on getting an agreement" with its 2,800-plus union workers by tonight, which is its internal goal for reaching a deal.
Johnson said BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger and other top executives are at the bargaining table as are the presidents of various unions that represent the transit agency's employees.
Johnson said the mood at the negotiations is "tense and exhausting."
Carlos Rivera, the spokesman for the transit agency's largest union, Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents about 1,400 mechanics, custodians, safety inspectors and clerical employees, said, "We are seeing the endgame" and he's "cautiously optimistic" an agreement can be reached on Thursday.
However, Rivera said, "We've been here before" and it's hard to predict what will happen.
Contract talks began on April 1 and have now been going on for nearly four full months. Four state mediators have been involved in the negotiations for the past month.
Members of BART's three largest unions voted by overwhelming margins last month to authorize a strike, but there are no plans to strike at this time. Union leaders have said they will provide "reasonable notice" to the public before they would go on strike but have declined to be more specific.
Johnson said imposing the terms and conditions of a new labor contract "is a tool that we have" if the negotiations collapse but he said management wants to avoid using that tool if possible.
Johnson said management wants to eliminate work rules that it believes are inefficient and costly and is committed to achieving $100 million in labor cost savings in order to cope with its large budget deficit, which is estimated to be $310 million over four years.
Union leaders have said they want management to look more closely at a proposal they've made, which they say will achieve $760 million in long-term savings.
BART board member James Fang of San Francisco said today that, "I'm very disappointed that some members of some unions are very stringent about maintaining the status quo" with work rules that he thinks are inefficient.
Fang said if there's not an agreement on Thursday, management "will explore every option at its disposal" but won't lock out its workers.
Fang said management wants to "force the issue now in July and August," when fewer people use BART, instead of waiting until the fall, when more people use BART when they go back to school and return from their summer vacations.