SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco Bay-area commuters braced for the possibility of another train strike as the transit agency and its workers approached a deadline to reach a new contract deal.

The two sides negotiated on Wednesday, but did not appear close to an agreement. Unions submitted their last financial proposal on July 17 and were awaiting a counter-offer from the Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency, said Josie Mooney, chief negotiator for the local Service Employees International Union, one of two unions in the talks.

She told the San Jose Mercury News if there is no change in BART’s position by Friday morning, unions will likely issue a 72-hour strike notice. That could mean a train service shutdown for the morning commute on Monday if a deal isn’t reached over the weekend.

BART officials scheduled a media availability for 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Union members planned to rally at 5 p.m. in Oakland.

The unions went on strike last month, shutting down BART service for four days and snarling transit in the region. Commuters faced long lines for buses and ferries and jammed roadways.

BART, the nation’s fifth-largest rail system, serves more than 400,000 commuters each weekday. It carries passengers from the farthest reaches of San Francisco’s densely populated eastern suburbs to San Francisco International Airport across the bay.

The unions — which represent nearly 2,400 train operators, station agents, mechanics, maintenance workers and professional staff — agreed to call off the strike and extend their contracts until Aug. 4 while negotiations continued.

Key sticking points in the labor dispute include pensions and health care costs, according to BART.

The transit agency has said union train operators and station agents average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. The workers also pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance and nothing toward their pensions.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.


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