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BART Unions Threaten Strike As Labor Talks Resume

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Credit: Getty Images

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Union leaders said they’re are prepared to strike and shut down one of the nation’s largest rail systems for the second time this summer if they don’t reach an agreement on a new contract this weekend.

Bay Area Rapid Transit managers and union leaders were set to resume negotiations on Friday, but their proposals remained tens of millions of dollars apart on wages, pensions and health care benefits.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown was waiting for an investigatory board that he appointed to issue a report on the labor dispute. The panel has until Sunday night to submit its report to the governor, who can then ask a court to call a 60-day cooling-off period, when BART trains would keep running.

The unions are committed to working through the weekend to reach a “fair and quick resolution,” said Josie Mooney, chief negotiator for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, However, a 48-hour strike notice could be issued if negotiations fail.

BART Board President Tom Radulovich said the board met on Thursday to discuss the status of talks and the directors are committed to working continuously to reach a deal by Sunday.

“We gave the general manager the authority and flexibility to reach a fair deal, as long as the unions are ready to move toward a reasonable settlement,” Radulovich said in a statement. “We stand ready to compromise with them on contract terms on which all parties can agree.”

California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have sent a letter to BART managers and union leaders urging them to “resume negotiations in good faith, end the dispute, and work together to avoid any further disruptions to BART service.”

Brown’s decision to empanel the board of inquiry prevented a strike from beginning last Monday.

The labor dispute previously resulted in a 4 1/2-day strike in early July that snarled traffic on roadways and left commuters facing long lines for buses and ferries.

BART is the nation’s fifth largest rail system, carrying an estimated 400,000 daily riders from the farthest reaches of San Francisco’s densely populated eastern suburbs to San Francisco International Airport across the bay.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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