OAKLAND — San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit officials said Thursday they will offer two of their largest unions a new contract proposal to avert a possible rail strike that would cause chaos for commuters.
The agency’s new package is closer to what the unions are seeking on benefits, pensions and salaries, BART spokesman Rick Rice said as the parties returned to the bargaining table. He declined to discuss specifics about the proposal.
“Hopefully, this will give us some more progress and something to talk about,” Rice said. “We’re making improvement in our offer, that’s negotiations. I would in no way characterize it as caving (in).”
The agency also introduced two new plans to address the unions’ safety concerns as well, Rice said.
Employees want a 5 percent annual raise over the next three years. Currently, train operators and station agents are paid in the low $60,000 range. Employees average $16,590 in overtime annually and pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.
BART has offered a 1 percent raise annually over the next four years.
The agency’s new proposal comes two days after members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 1021 and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Local 1555, approved a strike vote.
The unions say talks are “far apart.”
ATU Local President Antonette Bryant added that the unions do not have immediate plans to go on strike and say they will provide 72-hour notice of any work stoppage.
The current contract expires Sunday.
“We’re hoping that BART comes up with real numbers and not rubber numbers, we’re hoping that it’s a real, true, factually-based proposal,” Bryant said. “We are working to bargain and negotiate to get a deal done by Sunday night.”
BART’s last strike occurred for six days in 1997. About 400,000 riders use BART each weekday.