Update 5:10 p.m.: The latest news is that a federal mediator has gotten both sides talking again, and things are looking better than they were last night. Rick Rice, spokesman for BART, told the Chronicle that "If we can have an agreement by 6, we can have train service in the morning." We'll let you know if anything changes -- or if you're going to have to hitch a ride on the bus again tomorrow morning.
Update 12:20 p.m.: BART reportedly canceled its meeting today where it was planning to talk about the BART strike among other problems. So now what, you ask? According to KTVU, BART has been confabbing with the federal mediator today, although that doesn't mean much for your afternoon commute. Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for BART, told the news station that the transit agency will have a look at the unions' latest proposal over work rules. Check back later for more details.
Original story 7 a.m.: And no, the trains aren't running.
After a weekend with no BART service, commuters started lining up to catch ferries and buses early Monday. Meanwhile, the Bay Bridge was jammed with cars well before dawn. The unions said they put a yet another new offer on the table yesterday, which they say gives a little flexibility on work rules -- the main sticking point on this labor disagreement.
The unions say they're willing to be flexible on the work rules that pertain to BART technologies, but they're refusing to give the transit agency any wiggle room for work rules related to worker safety, and for good reason.
The unions pointed to the weekend tragedy on the tracks as a perfect example of why there should be no changes to the current work rules for worker safety. On Saturday, two train workers, were hit by a BART train on a section of track between Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations. According to BART, the train was running on auto-mode with an "experienced operator" at the controls just after 2 p.m. as the workers were inspecting a dip in the track, a task which required one of them to peruse the track while the other served as a lookout for oncoming traffic.
The train, which had been hauling vandalized trains, hit the two workers. They were pronounced dead at the scene. They have since been identified as Laurence Daniels, 66, and Christopher Sheppard, 58.
The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating the incident.
"The job of a BART worker can be very dangerous. That's why we receive a lot of training and it's why there are a lot of work rules," said Saul Almanza, a BART employee who trains workers on safety procedures and protocols. "Work rules protect our members from the type of accidents that happened [Saturday]."
But BART management wants to change the current work rules, which the unions say is "reckless, radical and wrong." The system's current work rules provide stable schedules for employees and allows management to easily investigate discrimination complaints. Management, however, says it needs greater flexibility.
BART management has yet to respond to that offer as far as we know, but they did issue a statement Sunday saying the transit agency is willing to restart talks again with the unions. The BART board is holding a closed-door meeting tonight to talk about labor issues. We'll keep you posted on the BART mess.
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