Bay Area Traffic

Unions accuse BART of backing out of agreement

Wednesday, October 09, 2013
Unions accuse BART of pulling a new offer Commuters on a BART train A BART train enters the station. Cooling off period will end soon for BART, unions BART talks continue; commuters prepare for possible strike SEIU BART strike sign

As the talks wrapped up Wednesday night, BART's unions accused the transit agency of backing out of an agreement and essentially pulling the rug out from under them and Bay Area commuters at the very last minute. After back-to-back 12-hour bargaining days, BART's hired chief negotiator left at about 9:45 p.m. saying only, "See you in the morning" to reporters followed by grim-faced union members who say on Tuesday night they had actually been closing in on a deal.

"Today the unions came to the bargaining table with the hope we could close the gap and reach a final agreement. However, we were completely taken back when BART management backed up and withdrew their offer, claiming to have been confused the day before. There was no confusion. Instead, BART's hired gun, Thomas Hock, at the direction of general manager Grace Crunican lied to the unions, shattering the fragile framework of an agreement," said SEIU Local 1021 executive director Pete Castelli.

"It is not true that we had a proposal on the table that was withdrawn. I think it's more a case of miscommunication involving the mediator, working between all three parties," said BART spokesperson Jim Allison. He also sent a statement saying, "BART is committed to reaching a negotiated settlement. Any suggestion that BART offered a proposal and withdrew it is categorically untrue. BART negotiators are ready to meet with their union partners tomorrow and are ready and willing to work as long as necessary to keep the trains running."

Both sides say despite this, they will be back at the bargaining table on Thursday morning. That's after a BART board of directors meeting that starts at 9 a.m. and includes a closed-door meeting and update on the negotiations.

Riders warned to prepare for possible BART strike

The possibility of a BART strike is still hanging over our heads. The unions insist they don't want to walk Friday, but they will.

Both sides have been talking for the better part of two days. They went until about 10 p.m. Tuesday night.

"As long as I keep showing up, we keep showing up, I mean, everybody's going to be optimistic," said BART's lead negotiator Thomas Hock. "It's when nobody shows up here, you gotta start worrying."

Hock thinks the month's long negotiations between the district and its unions can be finished up by Thursday's midnight deadline.

"We're closer every day," he said. "I will tell you we're not close enough yet." When asked if there are enough days, he answered, "Yeah, we could get it done today if everybody really wanted to."

"The fact is our members are ready to go on strike if they don't get the deal they're deserving," said ATU President Antonette Bryant.

The president of the Amalgamated Transit Union warned anything is still possible, including a strike, unless something dramatic changes in the next day.

"We want our safety provisions taken care of," she said. "We want our health, our medical, our retirement and our wages, all of those are a part of the package."

"Our livelihood out here should not be dependent on what happens in there." Orinda City Councilman Steve Glazer held his own press conference to promote his petition campaign to ban future BART strikes.

"If a strike happens and our economy gets crippled again, I think all options should be examined, all options should be on the table," Glazer said.

Last time, the unions did give a strike notice to commuters. This time, though, they say they are not prepared or will not commit to doing that. They are not legally required to give the public any notice.

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