BREAKING: Monday BART strike averted; Judge grants request for cooling off period


Stay with ABC7 News for the latest details on this developing story.

A judge is hearing arguments on a request by Gov. Jerry Brown for an injunction that would prevent BART unions from going on strike and keep commuter trains running for at least 60 days.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow was expected to issue a decision on Brown's request after the hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Sunday.

This comes as both the union and management express frustration and fatigue over the labor dispute.

Another full day of negotiations Saturday, and even with a chance of a court ordered cooling off period, the pressure to hammer out a deal is still on.

"All along, the process has been a lot more delayed than it should have been," said Chris Finn, a negotiator with the train operators' union. "But at this point, with a little bit of political pressure, we're hearing that the legislators are weighing in and encouraging the resolution."

In a move to keep the trains running even if a deal isn't reached this weekend, Gov. Brown called for a 60-day cooling off period.

A San Francisco Superior Court judge will hold a hearing Sunday morning to decide if that's necessary. That's prompted both sides to say they agree on at least one thing now.

"We wanted to do it starting May 13th, we wanted to do it July 1st, we wanted to do it April 4," ATU President Antonette Bryant said. "So, I mean, we're here to get a deal."

"Yeah, things are happening," BART negotiator Thomas Hock said. "I think the unions want to look at some things, do some costing of proposals, then see where it goes."

For BART riders watching these talks, there are plenty of points of view.

"I just think they already get paid pretty good," one transit rider sid.

Another commuter added, "I do want to avoid a strike because I want to be able to ride BART, but I understand that they would want more money."

They do not want a strike. But if there is no agreement, the unions say even a court ordered cooling off period will not remove their best bargaining chip at the negotiating table. "At the end of that 60 days, if there's no deal, there will be a strike," Bryant said. "And there's nothing the governor can do about that."

Brown argued in a court filing that a strike would endanger "public health, safety and welfare." BART management has said it supports a cooling off-period, but union leaders said it would reduce the urgency to negotiate.

The parties remained tens of millions of dollars apart on wages, pensions and health care benefits last week. BART said workers from the two unions now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. The workers pay nothing toward their pensions and pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.

Negotiations began four months ago. BART workers went on strike for four days in July, snarling traffic on roadways and leaving commuters facing long lines for buses and ferries.

Another strike was set for Aug. 5 when Brown intervened and appointed a panel to investigate the contract dispute.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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