BART’s Saturday Talks End With Promise of ‘Long Day Tomorrow’
By Katharine Fong and Dan Brekke
Update: 10:20 p.m. Saturday: The talks are over for the night. Principal negotiators for both sides left the bargaining site at Caltrans District 4 headquarters. Pete Castelli, an official with SEIU Local 1021, told reporters that members of the union’s costing committee is continuing work on contract details tonight. “Frankly, we have a long day tomorrow,” Castelli said as he left the talks. “We’re going to be back here early in the morning to get back to work.”
- BART, unions resumed negotiations Saturday afternoon.
- BART running normal service over the weekend.
- Unions have given notice they will strike at 12:01 a.m. Monday if there’s no agreement.
- Pay, health benefits appear to be major obstacles to agreement.
Earlier, BART chief negotiator Thomas Hock said the agency had reached a tentative agreement with the SEIU on some of the supplemental issues — details of working conditions, for instance. On the tougher issues, including pay, health benefits and pensions, Hock said the two sides are “still trading ‘supposals.’ ”
Bottom line: We’re once again facing a regional transit strike deadline that’s now a little more than 24 hours away.
Update, 9:15 p.m.: Negotiators for the BART and its unions are taking a dinner break and have made some guardedly optimistic comments about the progress of contract talks since the two sides began their latest bargaining session about 7 p.m. The delay in starting today’s talks (originally advertised as starting at 9:30 a.m.) was due to both sides deciding to meet separately to discuss their contract proposals. Here’s the latest we’re hearing by way of tweets from reporters on the scene:
— Chase Cain (@ChaseCainTV) October 13, 2013
— KenWayne (@KenWayne) October 13, 2013
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) October 13, 2013
Update, 5:45 p.m. Saturday: Talks resumed late Saturday afternoon about 7 p.m. Saturday with neither side saying much about how close, or how far, they are from getting to a contract. The talks had been scheduled to begin at 9:30 this morning after adjourning late Friday night; there was no immediate explanation of the delay. BART’s two biggest unions, a unit of SEIU Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, served notice Thursday night they’ll strike at 12:01 a.m. Monday morning if there’s no agreement.
The only real news to report: BART General Manager Grace Crunican is reportedly at the talks for a second straight day. Both BART chief negotiator Thomas Hock and Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said Crunican’s presence Friday made a difference in the talks. Here’s the summary from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Cabanatuan:
“She’s listening and asking questions,” said Antonette Bryant, president of the ATU local, as negotiators took a dinner break Friday evening. “She’s trying to get an accurate depiction of what our proposals are and why.”
Thomas Hock, BART’s chief negotiator, said he thought Crunican’s meetings with the unions were useful because they gave the bargaining teams a chance to speak to her directly. As to how that will affect BART’s next proposal, he said: “We’ll talk among ourselves and decide where to go next.”
Unions had been asking for months to have Crunican and the BART Board of Directors be more involved in the negotiations, and union leaders said that having the transit agency’s leadership directly involved was a “significant” change.
A sign of the times:
— Cbarnard (@CornellBarnard) October 12, 2013
Update: 2:50 p.m. Friday BART General Manager Grace Crunican is present at the negotiations, as are several unnamed BART board members.
“We believe that these developments can only help bring a resolution to these drawn-out negotiations and for this reason, we will continue bargaining through the weekend,” said SEIU Local 1021 in a statement today.
A short while ago, Pete Castelli, executive director of SEIU Local 2021, emerged from the negotiation table and talked to reporters.
“The elements are in place here today, meaning the general manager is here in the building,” Castelli said. ”People are talking. The elected officials – there’s an assemblage of them facilitating. So we still have a long day ahead. But I believe the elements are here today that are needed for the two parties to come together.”
Original post: As of last night and early this morning, BART management and the unions are still far apart on pay and health-care benefits. The two sides are talking, but the unions issued a 72-hour notice of a strike, and a walkout could happen as early as Sunday at midnight. See our detailed coverage at “BART Trains Running While Negotiations Continue; New Deadline on Sunday.”
This morning, KQED’s Cy Musiker reported on views from both sides.
Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said BART has “not been bargaining in good faith.” She said the unions want to craft a deal, but BART negotiators keep changing their tune, first offering and then withdrawing a “last, best, final offer” yesterday.
“If BART had had its way we would have been on strike with picket signs right now,” Bryant said. “Our union stepped up to the plate and said ‘No, we’re not letting you off the hook — there’s a deal to be made, we care about the riding public and the businesses that are impacted and we’re going to keep you at the table and get this job done.’”
Both Thomas Hock, BART’s chief negotiator, and BART spokesman Jim Allison said the offer was not the “last, best and final,” (a legal term) but the latest offer, and that BART had not presented it to the unions because the unions had said they were not ready to receive it.
Musiker also reports that State Assemblymember Bill Quirk is currently attending the negotiations. Quirk told reporters that at various times other legislators, including state Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner of Berkeley and Rob Bonta and state Senator Ellen Corbett have been in attendance.
“We’re just here to listen and be a sounding board,” Quirk said. ”We’re all here to support negotiations.”
The unions have said that local legislators have been present in negotiations, though they have not disclosed specific names. BART management has been close-mouthed on the topic.
Today, however, BART’s Hock said legislators’ participation “just takes up time that could be used for actual bargaining. It just adds to the theater.”