Sunday, October 20, 2013

No end in sight to San Francisco commuter rail strike

No end in sight to San Francisco commuter rail strike

Demonstrators hold signs in support of striking Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers outside Lake Merritt Station in Oakland, California October 18, 2013. REUTERS-Stephen Lam
(Reuters) - San Francisco faced another day without its commuter rail system on Sunday with no new strike talks scheduled to resolve the labor dispute.
Vigils were planned in honor of two workers who were struck and killed by a train as they checked a section of the track over the weekend.
The strike against the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency, which carries about 400,000 riders a day, began on Friday after contract talks broke down over pay and workplace rules.
With no talks scheduled, the walkout is expected to snarl traffic as the city returns to work this week.
Antonette Bryant, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said her union would put the latest contract offer to a vote, but predicted it would be rejected, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The vote would not be scheduled until later in the week, the newspaper said.
The Service Employees International Union Local 1021 declined to say whether its members would vote on the offer, the newspaper reported.
The two workers killed on Saturday were a BART employee and a contractor, BART officials said. One of the workers belonged to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is not on strike.
They were checking a possible dip in the track just north of the station in suburban Walnut Creek when a BART train functioning on automatic control, with an operator inside, struck and killed them, the agency said in a statement.
The train was being taken to a maintenance yard to have graffiti removed, BART said.
The National Transportation Safety Board began an investigation of the incident on Sunday, NTSB chief investigator Jim Southworth told a news conference. He said it would take four to 10 days to complete the investigation.
Southworth did not release the identities of those involved in the accident. He would not confirm whether a BART manager was operating the train or if the NTSB would investigate the accident in connection with the strike.
On Sunday, the Service Employees International Union and the Amalgamated Transit Union planned vigils for the two workers, according to a spokeswoman for the SEIU Local 1021.
The ATU canceled picket lines for the day because of the deaths. Its members, among the more than 2,000 BART workers on strike, will resume picketing on Monday, it said on its website.
The BART walkout is the second this year, after unionized workers went on strike for 4-1/2 days in July. The unions and BART management were unable to reach a deal in the following months.

The July work stoppage caused between $73 million and $100 million a day in lost productivity for riders, said Rufus Jeffris, spokesman for the Bay Area Council, which studies the local economy.

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