Board sets hearing to probe BART labor dispute

A board created to investigate BART's ongoing labor fight is calling for a public hearing to investigate the contract dispute between the transit agency's managers and unions.

Jacob Appelsmith, chairman of the investigatory board, sent a letter to both parties Monday asking for summaries of their positions ahead of the hearing.

The hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the State Building, 1515 Clay St., in Oakland and will be open to the public.

Gov. Jerry Brown empaneled the board late Sunday, averting a strike that would have created traffic mayhem for Bay Area commuters Monday.

The board has up to seven days to conduct its inquiry into the contract dispute, but the report is expected to be given to Brown on Friday.

Brown's order came under a law that allows the state's intervention if a strike will significantly disrupt public transportation services and endanger public health.

“For the sake of the people of the Bay Area, I urge — in the strongest terms possible — the parties to meet quickly and as long as necessary to get this dispute resolved,” Brown said in the order.

Union leaders issued a critical statement after the order, accusing BART management negotiators of stalling until only hours remained before the strike would have begun to provide counter proposals on core pay and benefits.

“Our hope is that the governor's board of investigation will reveal how little time BART management has spent at the bargaining table in the past 30 days, compared with how much time they've spent posturing to the media,” said Roxanne Sanchez, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which along with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, represents some 2,400 BART employees.

BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said late Sunday that it is “extremely frustrating” that the unions were misrepresenting the improved proposals they've been getting, including wage increases, and the transit authority was hard at work all weekend despite allegations of absence.

“We made several proposals this weekend and they all went in one direction and that was up, up, up,” Trost said.

Big differences remain on key issues including wages, pensions, worker safety and health care costs.

While the unions issued a courtesy 72-hour notification Thursday of a possible strike starting Monday, it's unclear if that would happen again should Brown not request that a judge order a 60-day cooling-off period for both sides. The notification is not required.

Meanwhile, because the strike was averted so late Sunday, commuters and transit agencies had to make last-minute adjustments to their plans.

BART had hired 95 bus drivers to shuttle passengers from the East Bay into San Francisco and back. Despite notifying the bus companies it had contracted with that the strike was off, some shuttle drivers didn't get the message and reported to work at 4:30 a.m. Monday, Trost said.

Trost added that BART will still have to pay for many of the buses hired for Monday and into the rest of the week because most of the various bus contracts required a 72-hour cancellation notice.

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