OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - They've had 59 days for heated talks to chill, but the two sides in a Bay Area Rapid Transit labor dispute have yet to reach a deal as Friday's final day of a 60-day state-mandated cooling-off period arrives.
If the clock strikes midnight with no agreement, BART's workers could walk off the job - and thousands of Northern California commuters could be stranded - for the second time in recent months.
In one sign that a strike may not be imminent, leaders of the two unions representing BART employees - Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 - declined to give the customary 72 hours' notice this week that they'd be striking once the state-mandated 60-day cooling off period expires.
Union leaders said they didn't provide the three-day notice because they wanted to leave every possible option open for a resolution, but the lack of notice does nothing to stop workers from a walk-off starting Saturday.
BART leaders said they're working equally hard toward a settlement.
"BART negotiators are ready to meet with their union partners tomorrow and are ready and willing to work as long as necessary to keep the trains running," BART spokesman Jim Allison said in a statement late Wednesday night.
The parties have reached agreement on pension contributions, but were still at odds over compensation, health care and safety.
The unions want a raise of nearly 12 percent over three years while BART has proposed a 10 percent increase over four years.
BART workers walked off the job for four-and-a-half days in July, leading to jammed bridges and crowded buses throughout the Bay Area before Gov. Jerry Brown mandated the 60-day cooling-off period.
During the current talks, BART officials unveiled a $21 million contingency plan to give commuters more options, including free charter buses, extra car pool lanes and even limited train service run by managers.
An average of about 200,000 riders takes BART roundtrip on a weekday