SAN FRANCISCO — The Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency and two of its largest unions returned to the bargaining table on Saturday, one day after Gov. Jerry Brown said he will seek a cooling-off period if the contract dispute threatens to stall commuter trains in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The two sides were huddled up in separate rooms in the morning, with the unions awaiting a response from BART on a new proposal they put forward on Friday, said Service Employees International Union Local 1021 spokeswoman Josie Mooney. Mooney said she could not disclose the details of that proposal.
It was not clear how long Saturday’s session would go, but BART management and union leaders have said they are committed to talking all weekend.
Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday he will seek a court-ordered, two-month cooling-off period in negotiations on Sunday morning. BART workers would not be able to go on strike during such a period, keeping one of the nation’s largest rail systems running.
Brown’s announcement as union leaders warned commuters that they were prepared to strike and shut down BART on Monday for the second time this summer if they didn’t reach an agreement on a new contract over the weekend.
BART union leaders were angered Friday with the governor’s proposal, believing it reduces the urgency to negotiate.
“It would’ve been better if both parties had felt the kind of pressure necessary to arrive at a deal,” Mooney said. “We’re hoping in spite of both parties knowing the governor will seek this injunction that both parties continue to be motivated to achieve an agreement so that there is no threat of a strike in October.”
San Francisco Superior Court has agreed to open its Civic Center courthouse on Sunday if necessary to hold a hearing on the possible request by Brown.
The parties remained tens of millions of dollars apart on wages, pensions and health care benefits. 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.
Negotiations began four months ago. BART workers went on strike for four days in July, snarling traffic on roadways and leaving 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. That panel’s conclusion, released Friday, was that a strike would cause significant harm to the public’s health, safety and welfare.