BART riders can breath a little sigh of relief with the news late last night that BART agreed to a 9 day extension of its old labor contracts, which were due to expire midnight Tuesday.
There was already good reason to believe that a BART strike is unlikely this year, given the miserable state of the economy, BART worker’s high pay and benefits compared to the rest of their industry, and repeated statements from both sides in the talks that they would not trigger a labor stoppage. If workers are out, BART shuts down service for its 335,000 weekday riders in four counties.
But both sides acknowledged last week that they are far apart in talks, and BART managers and board members said they wanted a deal by midnight Tuesday when 4-year labor agreements are scheduled to expire for 2,800 unionized BART workers.
Now both sides get more time to work with, as BART agreed to extend the contracts to midnight June 9 with two unions. BART negotiators said at the April 1 onset of negoitiations that they want $100 million in concessions on benefits and work rules over four years. Union officials have said repeatedly they are willing to make concessions to save BART money. But figuring out how to make sacrifices isn’t a pleasant chore, and it hasn’t been done yet.
In disclosing the contract extension in a prepared statement last night, General Manager Dorothy Dugger said, “Despite three months of negotiations, unon leaders have still failed to agree to signfiicant cost saving proposals.”
Dugger went to say that she hopes the extra nine days will provide enough time to reach a settlement.
And what happens if a deal isn’t made by July 9? It all depends whether both sides want to stay at the table.
Until new contracts are approved, the door remains open for a possible strike – even if appears at this point to be unlikely
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