Negotiations at the Kaiser Center in Oakland broke around 4:30 p.m. Thursday with everyone planning to be back at the table by 7 p.m. Early Thursday evening, the ATU said it was a little too early to react to BART's latest offer because they were still pouring over the details. Although they did say they were still frustrated by what they called BART's "rubber budget numbers."
BART started the day briefing reporters about a new offer on wages, medical, and pension benefits. "Hopefully, this'll give us some more progress, something to talk about. I'm not going to get into specifics. We're going to negotiate in the room, but we are putting a proposal on that moves our position closer to theirs," said BART spokesman Rick Rice.
Worker and passenger safety has been another top union concern. BART has refused to include that area in contract talks, until Thursday. It has now put two safety issues in its offer, but also said it addresses security concerns year-round and as an example, exhibited a new street escalator canopy cover that will be tested in Oakland. It can be locked to prevent transients from using the escalator as a home and a restroom.
"It's a perfect example of how we work with our unions. We take a look. We see that there's a problem and we fix it," said BART spokesperson Alicia Trost.
ATU negotiator Leo Ruiz spoke to ABC7 News before he had a chance to see BART's two new safety proposals. "The only real thing that they talked about actually doing is buying that canopy for $2.15 million that's going protect an escalator. It's not going to protect the agents at Richmond. It's not going to protect the agents at Coliseum. It's not going to protect the patrons anywhere," he said.
Both sides are saying the last thing they want is a strike. Commuters hope they mean it. "Devastating. I mean it would take me longer... AC Transit, you know. I would hate if they did go on strike," BART rider Clifford Snead said.
And, there's not guarantee AC Transit will be there for riders as their contract also expires Sunday night and their workers union has also authorized a strike.