Mediators hope to get BART back on track

June 26, 2009 7:07:12 PM PDT
BART riders have a stake in down-to-the-wire BART negotiations. Mediators arrived in Oakland to help with the process. Both sides say they expect talks to continue right down to the deadline next Tuesday night.

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Negotiators called it a day and left early on Friday evening, but they do plan to be back on Saturday.

The unions say state mediators have breathed new life into negotiations with BART.

"We're bringing them up to date and we're showing them things that we've passed across the table, and explaining what our position is, the district explaining what their position is," said Lisa Isler, from SEIU.

With only four days until contracts expire, all three unions have authorized a strike, but leaders are saying that's the last thing they want.

"I just want the public to be reassured we have no intention of having a strike Wednesday morning and that we will be here. We will not inconvenience them," said Suzanne Angeli, SEIU.

But it could take every last minute to get there.

"We plan to be here 24-hours a day until midnight Tuesday. We have meetings scheduled Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday," said Angeli.

"We don't believe at this point, we're going to reach a settlement in the next two days anyway," said BART's chief spokesperson Linton.

The 1997, six-day BART strike created miserable commutes across the Bay Bridge. Transit agencies are urging BART riders to prepare for a strike. The Rideshare carpooling service says its extending hours and beefing up staff.

"One of the best things people can do is plan ahead," said Kip Powis from Rideshare.

Rideshare brings together people with similar commute needs.

"It's like a dating service, it matches people with the same sort of travel time, commute times, and the same days of the week," said Powis.

BART says it needs benefit and work rule concessions from the unions in order to close a $250 million, four-year budget deficit.

"It's really like having a credit card with $250 million on it and we can't keep paying that bill," said Johnson.

To explore other alternative modes of transportation, 511.org can help.

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