published Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

San Francisco Bay transit agency, unions reach deal to end strike

A traffic sign on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge alerts motorists to expect delays because of the BART transit strike in Oakland, Calif.
A traffic sign on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge alerts motorists to expect delays because of the BART transit strike in Oakland, Calif.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

OAKLAND, Calif. — The San Francisco Bay Area's main commuter train system and its unions reached a tentative agreement on a new contract Monday night, ending a crippling four-day strike.

Union officials announced the deal, which still requires approval from union members.

BART general manager Grace Crunican said trains would likely be running at full strength by the Tuesday afternoon commute.

"The public expects us to resolve our differences and to keep the Bay Area moving," she said.

Crunican added that there would be no announcements on the details of the accord, but she did say: "This deal is more than we wanted to pay."

BART is the nation's fifth-largest rail system, with an average weekday ridership of 400,000.

Workers walked off the job on Friday after talks broke down. Commuters endured jammed roadways and long lines for buses and ferries, as they looked for alternate ways around the region.

The contentious talks between BART and its two largest unions dragged on for six months— a period that saw two chaotic dayslong strikes, contentious negotiations and frazzled commuters wondering if they would wake up to find the trains running or not.

The key issues were salaries and worker contributions to their health and pension plans.

Talks began in April, three months before the June 30 contract expirations, but both sides were far apart. The unions initially asked for 23.2 percent in raises over three years. BART countered, offering a four-year contract with 1 percent raises contingent on the agency meeting economic goals.

The unions contended that members made $100 million in concessions when they agreed to a deal in 2009 as BART faced a $310 million deficit. And they said they wanted their members to get their share of a $125 million operating surplus produced through increased ridership.

But the transit agency countered that it needed to control costs to help pay for new rail cars and other improvements.

BART workers walked off the job on Friday after talks broke down. Commuters endured jammed roadways and long lines for buses and ferries, as they looked for alternate ways around the region.

BART workers also walked off the job in early July, shutting down train service for nearly five days.

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