BART and its five unions have spent nearly one-third of the year wrangling about contracts, and with just a day left until a negotiation deadline, the two sides are stuck on points that have stalled the talks since Day 1.
The transit agency is trying to cut $100 million in labor costs to help close a growing $310 million operating deficit during the next four years.
To reach those savings, around 2,800 unionized workers are being asked to make concessions in health and retirement benefits, along with give up certain "work rules" that management says are "outdated, expensive and wasteful."
The latter work-rules issue has posed the greatest challenge during the 117 days of negotiations, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said. An example of one of those rules, he said, is a mandate that station agents cannot be staffed at stations that are too far from their usual post.
When a station in San Francisco is busy because of a major festival, management cannot pull agents from quieter stations in the far East Bay to work in the busier stations and must instead pay double-time or overtime to employees who are allowed to work there, Johnson said.
Management is trying to reach $22 million in savings by putting a stop to this and other work rules, he said.
Carlos Rivera, a representative of BART's largest union, Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said many of the work rules management wants to quash keep the train system "cleaner, safer and on time."
If unions and managers fail to come to an agreement by the new deadline, BART may resort to imposing employment terms on its 2,800 union workers without their participation, or begin layoffs as an alternate cost-saving measure, Johnson said last week.
Union leaders said this week that such actions would make a strike "very possible."