Michele Ellson

Photo from the BART blog.

Updated at 4:30 p.m. Friday, August 9

Governor Jerry Brown has asked a court to put a threatened BART strike on hold for 60 days if BART workers and management are unable to reach a contract deal by Sunday.

If the the unions and BART management don't reach an agreement, the San Francisco Superior Court will hold a hearing Sunday to determine whether to grant the cooling-off period, during which BART workers are prohibited from striking and management, from locking employees out. It's the first time in 15 years the court has opened on a weekend to hold a hearing, a court spokesperson said.

“I urge all parties to think of the public and resolve this matter without delay, but if there’s no resolution by Sunday, I will seek a 60 day cooling-off period,” Brown was quoted as saying in a press statement.

In a nine-page report submitted to the governor Friday, a three-person panel Brown put in place to investigate the contested contract negotiations determined a strike would cause the public significant harm. BART went on strike for four days during the July 4 holiday week and had threatened to do so again if no deal was reached by last Sunday, until Brown intervened.

BART and the three unions whose roughly 2,600 workers have threatened to strike have been negotiating for a new contract since April. While BART and its supervisory workers reached a day-to-day accord while a new contract was being worked out, some of them walked out with about 2,400 other BART workers when they conducted a four-day strike at the beginning of July.

While both management and BART's unions have said they've made progress at the bargaining table, both sides remain far apart on major issues that include pay, benefits, pensions and worker safety, according to the panel's report. BART management is offering a 9 percent pay raise over four years and asking workers to pay a portion of their salaries toward pensions and also, for a cap on BART's health care premium payments. Representatives with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union want five percent raises over each of the next three years, and they have also offered to pay more toward health care; they have also offered to pay toward pensions in exchange for bigger raises.

In their report - drafted after a six-hour fact-finding hearing where the unions, management and the public offered their positions on the deals on the table and the threatened strike - the governor's three-person board determined that a strike could lead to more congestion and accidents, slower public safety responses and economic damage, a determination the unions split on. The Bay Area Council has determined that a fresh strike would cost the Bay Area's economy $73 million a day.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris listed those impacts and more in her court filing Friday, saying the transportation gap that would be left by a BART strike would be too big for buses and ferries to fill.

"Alternative modes of transit ... cannot come close to substituting for BART," the filing says.