A woman waits for a MUNI train at the Embarcadero station as 2,400 employees of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) commuter rail system go on strike in San Francisco, California July 1, 2013. Commuter rail workers went on strike on Monday in the San Francisco area for the first time in more than 15 years, triggering gridlock on highways and headaches for thousands trying to get to work. (Photo : Reuters)
Thousands of commuters returned to the Bay Area commuter trains Friday afternoon after a four-day strike by BART workers caused crippling delays. The SFGate reported that an agreement to extend the current contract for workers to August 4 was reached Thursday.
However, the agreement is simply a delay to any agreement needed between BART and its two largest unions, SFGate reported.
BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost told the publication, "The parties remain far apart on the money issues. We hope that with the trains running and come of the pressure off, it will create an atmosphere where an agreement can be reached."
Antonette Bryant, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents train operators and station agents, was not as hopeful. Bryant told the SFGate that the three days of negotiations was "a complete waste of time" that failed to discuss the issues of pay, health costs and pension contributions.
Roxanne Sanchez, president of Service Employees International Local 1021, added in a statement, "We regret that BART's high-paid, out-of-state negotiators...chose to stall and bargain through the media, leaving hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents stranded and costing our local economy hundreds of millions of dollars."
BART and its unions weren't the only ones frustrated by the never-ending negotiations. According to the Los Angeles Times, commuters were "less than jubilant" when service resumed on Friday afternoon.
A 32-year-old Oakland makeup instructor, Consuelo Lopez, told the Times, "I'm just exhausted and drained. It's the stress of trying to get to work on time, of everyone upset." Fellow commuter, Mary Miers, 21, added, "This has been a horrible week." Miers told the Times she estimates she lost about $200 in income due to commuter delays this week.
However, the LA Times reported that the return of a normal commute may not last long. Trost told SFGate, "Everyone was aiming to get the strike settled for Monday, but it became clear it was going to take more than those few days to reach a deal."
BART and the unions were able to reach an extension agreement through the help and recommendation of the two state mediators as well as Labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern and Gov. Jerry Brown, SFGate reported. Former BART director Michael Bernick said, "The involvement of the governor and Morgenstern was very positive. They have ties and standing with both parties, but especially with the unions."
Negotiations are set to continue on several topics, including pay raises, safety concerns, health care payments and pensions. According to SFGate, BART is offering an 8 percent pay raise over four years, while the unions are calling for 4.5 percent annual increase and a 2.2 percent cost of living increase each year. BART is also calling for a rise in health care payments employees make; it is currently at a $92 flat rate.