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Bay Area on verge of transit strike

SAN FRANCISCO – Bay Area Rapid Transit managers and union leaders returned to the bargaining table Saturday in a last-minute bid to avoid a strike that would leave 400,000 commuters scrambling for other ways to get to work.

BART’s two largest unions Thursday issued a 72-hour notice that employees would walk off the job Monday if they didn’t reach agreement on a new contract by midnight tonight. The labor action would shut down one of the nation’s largest transit systems for the second time in a month.

The two sides resumed negotiations around 10 a.m. Saturday, with wide gaps remaining on key issues including wages, pensions, worker safety and health care costs.

Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said no progress was made during Friday’s negotiations, which ended earlier than she had expected.

“Our team is giving it our best shot. We really do not want to disrupt service Monday,” Bryant said Saturday. “We want a deal. We will do whatever it takes.”

BART spokesman Rick Rice said agency managers are hopeful they can reach an agreement before Monday or continue negotiations without a service shutdown.

If there’s a BART strike, transit agencies are planning to add bus and ferry service, keep carpool lanes open all day and even give away coffee gift cards to encourage drivers to pick up riders. They’re also encouraging workers to avoid peak traffic hours or telecommute if possible.


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