BART official: ‘No talks are scheduled’ to end strike
As the morning commute dragged on Monday morning -- traffic reports called the Bay Bridge “worse than a parking lot,” with cars backed up east to Walnut Creek and south to San Lorenzo -- the stall in negotiations also persisted.
By 9:30 a.m., Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesman Rick Rice said management had “not heard from the mediator yet, so unfortunately no talks are scheduled. We’re hoping that changes soon.”
The biggest sticking point is of course money. Unions had initially asked for a 5% raise per year for three years with inflation protection, which management said amounted to a 23.3% increase. That was lowered late last week to 21%, Rice said.
BART’s most recent counteroffer, proposed Saturday, was for 2% annually in raises over the four years of the contract -- or 8% in total along with a slightly lower pension and healthcare contribution. That was a doubling of management’s earlier offer.
It didn’t sell.
“Last night the unions said they didn’t want to discuss our proposal unless we substantially increased it,” Rice said.
Union officials, meanwhile, complained they had been left sitting alone in the negotiation room for many hours since Friday.
“BART management threw in the towel tonight and pushed away from the bargaining table hours before the expiration of union contracts,” SEIU Local 1021 said in a statement.
Rice said such delays are not uncommon when dealing with a mediator and that management was absent because negotiators thought another proposal from employees was forthcoming.
“But that’s not the issue we need to be talking about,” he said. “We need to be back at the table talking about salaries, pensions and benefits.... What we want is a reasonable contract that lets us pay for the future of BART -- things that will increase safety and protect riders.”
Unions assert that BART is sitting on a surplus that should be shared with workers who have sacrificed in recent years. Rice countered that the money is needed for upgrades to the 40-year-old system, including new rail cars, an updated train control system and improved tunnel lighting.
“The Bay Area in general ought to know that just because you have a good year this year doesn’t mean the next four years will be good,” Rice said, “which is why there needs to be a responsible contract.”
Meanwhile Monday, Oakland city workers also went on strike -- a one-day affair -- in protest of their stalled contract negotiations. While Mayor Jean Quan said she had been willing to meet late into Sunday, unions called the city’s bargaining efforts superficial.
Police, fire and emergency services were not affected but Head Start and senior center programs were shuttered, as were other services and programs. There was one upside for residents, however.
“Hey, you don’t have to pay today,” one man yelled to another who was preparing to load money into a mid-block parking machine. “Parking is free.”
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