BART labor talks scheduled to start tonight 

click to enlarge BART strike
  • Alex Leber/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • BART workers have been on strike since Monday morning, shutting down the transit system.

BART labor talks will resume Tuesday evening, BART management announced.

"The district has been notified by state mediators that negotiations will resume at 6 p.m. tonight," BART spokesman Rick Rice said in a statement.

"After one full day of no meetings, we are eager to get back to the table," he said.

The talks will take place at the Caltrans building on Grand Avenue in Oakland, Rice said.

The announcement comes on the second day of a strike by BART workers represented by Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555.

Earlier Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Controller John Chiang and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones sent a letter to BART management and union leaders calling on them to start talking again.

"We are acutely aware of the widespread personal hardship and severe economic disruption caused even by a short interruption in BART service," the state officials wrote.

They said they were disappointed with the progress in the days leading up to the strike.

"Given the massive dislocation a protracted strike will cause, you owe the people of the Bay Area your time, your concentration and your best good-faith effort at reaching a bargained agreement," they said. "It is our collective opinion that so far, you have fallen short."

Negotiations were halted after union representatives left the table on Sunday, hours before their contracts expired at midnight, Rice said.

SEIU Local 1021 spokeswoman Leah Berlanga and ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant said Tuesday morning that leaders of the two unions were meeting with each other. Bryant said workers were hopeful talks would resume soon.

"We want to get back to the table," she said.

The strike, which began Monday morning, stems from disputes over issues including wages, health benefits, pension plans and safety.

Rice said management has offered to double salary increases from 4 percent over four years to 8 percent over the same period. He said management has also lowered the amount it was initially asking workers to contribute to pension and health care plans.

Rice said Saturday that the unions had come down from demanding a 23 percent salary increase to a 21 percent increase over a three-year period.

"We had some conversation Sunday night, but we've not been able to have a real conversation about our response and our proposal," Rice said.

Bryant said the workers are asking for a 4.5 percent wage increase annually for three consecutive years. The unions have agreed to contribute half a percent more to their pension each year, she said.

She said union workers' pension funds are 92 percent funded by BART, but that BART does not contribute to Social Security.

She said workers contribute $92 a month toward medical benefits.

Rice said the average annual compensation for workers represented by the two unions, including base salary, benefits and overtime, is about $134,000.

Bryant, a station agent herself, said the average salary of workers in her union is about $60,000 a year.

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