Unions: BART workers on strike as of midnight


"I am sorry. I am regretful. I do not know what to tell the public," she said.

Both sides have been at the bargaining table since 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Chris Daly, political director of the Service Employees International Union, Local 1021, described the long hours, "We've been going for 24 straight hours now. It's been intense," he said.

But otherwise, the morning has consisted of people just coming out of the building every now and then, including BART's chief negotiator, Thomas Hock. They've been getting fresh air, going to get coffee, but they haven't been making any announcements.

We do know that BART's General Manager Grace Crunican is also still at the table. She's been in there for 25 hours, as well as the chief negotiator and the federal mediator.

Spokespersons for both BART and the unions say they cannot comment on the negotiations because the talks are ongoing.

The key issues have been 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 with 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.

On Sunday, Crunican presented a "last, best and final offer" that includes an annual 3 percent raise over four years and requires workers to contribute 4 percent toward their pension and 9.5 percent toward medical benefits.

The value of BART's proposal is $57 million, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said, adding that the agency is looking at ways to incorporate the unions' counterproposals into that cost.

SEIU Local 1021 executive director Pete Castelli said Monday the parties were between $6 million to $10 million apart.

Workers represented by the two unions, including more than 2,300 mechanics, custodians, station agents, train operators and clerical staff, now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually, the transit agency said. BART workers currently pay $92 a month for health care and contribute nothing toward their pensions.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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