BART negotiations resume as commuters get holiday reprieve 

click to enlarge BART strike in San Francisco
  • AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
  • A man walks under a sign for the 24th Street Mission Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in San Francisco, Monday, July 1, 2013.

BART service will be suspended for a fifth day today due to the labor strike, the transit agency announced late Thursday.

Seven charter buses from five BART stations — at the West Oakland, El Cerrito del Norte, Walnut Creek, Dublin-Pleasanton and Fremont stations — will serve passengers on a first come, first served basis.

BART management and its two striking unions had negotiated throughout the day Thursday. Once a settlement is announced, it will take at least 18 hours to restore service, according to BART.

Earlier Thursday, Joe Bomberger of the Service Employees International Union told reporters as he entered the negotiating site in Oakland that BART officials were not "substantially addressing" any of the safety concerns that the unions have for the public and workers.

Those concerns include lighting in tunnels and bullet-proof glass for station agent booths.

Bomberger was then pulled away by another union official. The two sides have been told by a state mediator not to speak to the media.

The strike was in its fourth day, though commuters got a reprieve from crowded buses and gridlock on the roads because of the Fourth of July holiday.

BART is the nation's fifth largest rail system and carries about 400,000 commuters each weekday.

BART issued a statement, saying it was sorry that the actions of the unions had caused such a tremendous disruption.

The strike began early Monday after talks broke off. Negotiations resumed Tuesday as political pressure and public pleas mounted.

Key issues in the labor dispute include salaries, pensions, health care and safety.

BART has said workers from the two unions average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. The workers also pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.

The unions -- which represent nearly 2,400 train operators, station agents, mechanics, maintenance workers and professional staff -- want a 5 percent raise each year over the next three years.

BART said it is offering an 8 percent salary increase over the next four years as well as reducing the amount of employee contributions it originally requested for pension and medical benefits.

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