Bay Area Traffic
BART strike averted; Judge grants 60-day cooling off period
OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A BART strike has officially been averted, at least for now. In an unusual court hearing Sunday morning, Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow granted Governor Jerry Brown's request for a 60-day cooling off period, so BART contract negotiations can continue while trains keep running.
The judge signed the order after attorneys submitted their final paperwork to him. In the official order he wrote, "The Court finds that a threatened or actual strike or lockout, if permitted to occur or continue, will significantly disrupt public transportation services and endanger the public's health, safety or welfare."
After the court order was issued, both sides in the labor dispute continued contract talks inside the CalTrans building in Oakland Sunday afternoon.
The parties remained tens of millions of dollars apart on wages, pensions and health care benefits last week. BART said workers from the two unions now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. The workers pay nothing toward their pensions and pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.
Prior to the court ordered cooling off period, all sides in this negotiation were facing a midnight deadline for a deal.
Bay Area BART commuters who make nearly half a million trips on the trains every day were relieved to hear the news.
"That's fantastic. I use BART probably four, five days a week, and if BART went on strike, it would cause havoc here in the Bay Area. We saw what happened last time," BART rider Jeremy Kahn said.
The unions have said they're not happy about the governor stepping in because they were hoping the pressure of a deadline and a potential strike would get BART management to move on the issues.
In a statement, BART management told ABC7 News, "While we are glad there will be no labor-related service disruptions, we regret that an agreement has not been reached."
Negotiations began four months ago. BART workers went on strike for four days in July after their contract expired June 30. The strike caused major traffic on roadways and left commuters facing long lines for buses and ferries.
Another strike was set for Aug. 5 when Brown intervened and appointed a panel to investigate the contract dispute.
The unions think Sunday's court order is a delaying tactic that will benefit management, but they say they're committed.
"I'm afraid negotiations have stalled. You know, when the 60 day was called, I knew it was going to be stalled," ATU negotiator Leo Ruiz said.
BART board members deny that allegation.
"As a Director, I and my colleagues will certainly be placing pressure on the continuation of negotiations," BART District 7 Director Zakhary Mallett said.
The new deadline to reach a contract agreement is October 10 at midnight. If they don't reach a settlement by the then, the governor cannot call another cooling off period and the unions could strike.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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