SAN FRANCISCO — Gov. Jerry Brown has averted a strike of San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system, promising riders a normal commute Monday morning.
Late Sunday night Brown issued an order for a seven-day inquiry into the contract dispute that threatened to shut down one of the region’s major train lines.
The transit system has been at odds with two unions over a new contract.
The unions issued a 72-hour strike notice early Friday that would have fouled Monday’s commute.
BART, the nation’s fifth-largest rail system, serves more than 400,000 commuters each weekday.
The unions went on strike last month, shutting down BART service for four days. They later agreed to extend their contracts until Sunday and continue negotiations.
Key sticking points in the labor dispute included pensions and health care costs.
Representatives from BART management and the agency’s two largest employee unions negotiated for about 14 hours Saturday and resumed bargaining Sunday morning as a midnight deadline loomed.
Big differences remain on key issues including wages, pensions, worker safety and health care costs, but the parties expressed some optimism that an agreement could be reached to avert a strike planned for Monday.
“The parties made some important but incremental moves yesterday, and I hope to get to a deal,” Josie Mooney, chief negotiator for the Service Employees International Union 1021, said Sunday before heading into negotiations. “If the parties work very hard, then it’s certainly possible in the amount of time we have left.”
“There was definitely movement from both sides,” BART chief negotiator Thomas Hock said as he left negotiations late Saturday night. “Hopefully, if we keep moving, we will get to a proposal that both sides can agree to.”
BART’s two largest unions issued a 72-hour notice Thursday that employees would walk off the job if they didn’t reach agreement on a new contract by midnight Sunday.
Bay Area agencies were preparing ways to get commuters to work if there was a strike, but officials say there’s no way to make up for the BART system, which carries about 400,000 riders a day.
“BART really is the backbone of the transit network. No other transit agency has the ability to absorb BART’s capacity if there’s a disruption,” said John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
When BART workers shut down train service for four days in early July, roadways were packed and commuters waited in long lines for buses and ferries. The unions agreed to call off that strike and extend their contracts until Sunday while negotiations continued.