BART, unions continue talks to avert another strike


Both sides talked Saturday inside the Caltrans office in Oakland. There was a morning and then an afternoon session. The transit agency says there's been progress, but the unions say it hasn't been as much as they'd hoped.

Some union negotiators arrived for talks wearing Hawaiian shirts, a dig at BART's chief negotiator Thomas Hock, who is on vacation. The unions are also claiming Hock has a conflict of interest.

While the lead negotiator is getting paid nearly $400,000 to represent the transit agency, he is also a vice president of Veolia Transportation. According to the unions, that company was paid nearly $30,000 to provide shuttle bus service during the recent strike. Because of this, the unions filed a formal complaint with the BART Board of Directors.

"Because Thomas Hock is the vice president of labor relations of Veolia, these invoices indicate that he has a financial interest in the occurrence of a strike," SEIU attorney Kerianne Steele said. "And perhaps could even gain, his company could gain, from a prolonged strike at that."

"We do have a contract with Veolia," BART spokesperson Rick Rice said. "We used East Bay Paratransit to accommodate disabled passengers during the strike. That bill does come back to us, via Veolia, and has a $250 administrative fee on it for Veolia. I don't think that's a big issue."

Rice denies there is a conflict of interest. He says Hock was not involved in the choice of transit companies to pick up the slack during the strike.

At this point, BART says there are no talks scheduled for Sunday. They're supposed to ramp up again on Monday, but the 30-day extension is coming to an end.

The new deadline is next Sunday night, when there is once again the threat of another strike if both sides fail to do their jobs.

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