The fact that the two sides of the BART battle have not come to an agreement over new employee contracts following a four-day worker strike — two days of which were spent not talking — is evident of a lack of urgency.
BART service resumed Friday afternoon following the strike that stemmed from disagreements over contract negotiations for higher salaries, better safety regulations and the amount of worker contribution to pensions and medical benefits. Negotiations will continue over the next 30 days while the existing contract provisions remain in place.
While both sides have raised fair questions about employee contracts, it should not have taken until after a negotiation deadline and stoppage of service for a decision to be found. The fact that talks stopped on Sunday, June 30 — the original negotiating deadline — and did not resume until Tuesday, July 9 at 6 p.m. is emblematic of this problem and sadly reminiscent of partisan conflict in Congress.
Bay Area citizens are heavily dependent on BART for transportation around the region to almost a paralyzing degree. BART spokesman Rick Rice estimated that 400,000 commuters ride BART each day, and the Bay Area Council Economic Institute estimated the Bay Area economy lost almost $73 million each day in productivity as a result of the strike.There is no guarantee that there won’t be another strike following the 30-day extension period.
AC Transit and other Bay Area transportation services should be commended for stepping up their game during the BART strike. AC Transit increased the frequency and number of its transbay commuter buses and regular bus lines, such as the F line, which Berkeley residents use to travel to San Francisco.
Extending the negotiation deadline to Aug. 4 puts increased pressure on both sides to come to an agreement by this date. The public has already come to resent both BART’s workers and its administration and will continue to do so if a decision cannot be reached soon. As a type of public service, BART administration and employees owe it to travelers to stop jeopardizing the economy and daily routine of a major metropolitan area.
Both sides are reportedly apologetic. But we don’t need apologies — we need action.