OAKLAND, Calif. Commuter rail service will resume Friday following a strike, after the San Francisco Bay Area transit agency and its two largest unions agreed to extend a labor contract for a month while they continue bargaining.
A statement released late Thursday by Bay Area Rapid Transit said trains will begin running by 3 p.m. Friday, ending a four-day strike that slowed commutes across the Bay Area. The agreement between the agency and its unions will be extended for 30 days.
BART General Manager Grace Crunican said there is a wide gap of disagreements between the two sides.
"Unfortunately, the issues that brought us to this point remain unresolved," Crunican said. "Despite lots of hard work, BART and its unions have failed to come to an agreement on contract issues that matter to all of us today and into the future."
BART is the nation's fifth-largest rail system and serves more than 400,000 commuters each weekday. BART carries passengers from the farthest reaches of San Francisco's densely populated eastern suburbs to San Francisco International Airport across the bay.
The strike began early Monday after negotiations broke off.
Talks resumed Tuesday as political pressure and public pleas mounted to reach a settlement. The two sides negotiated into the night Wednesday. BART issued a statement, saying it was sorry that the actions of the unions had caused such a tremendous disruption.
The strike caused stress and frustration in the region. Commuters lined up early in the morning for the transit agency's charter buses at five locations, waited patiently for ferries heading to San Francisco, and endured heavy rush-hour traffic on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge that lightened considerably by midmorning.
BART said that limited bus service would continue Friday. BART's last strike lasted six days in 1997.
Key issues in the labor dispute include salaries, pensions, health care and safety. BART has said workers from the two unions average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. The workers also pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.
The unions - which represent nearly 2,400 train operators, station agents, mechanics, maintenance workers and professional staff - want a 5 percent raise each year over the next three years.
BART said it is offering an 8 percent salary increase over the next four years as well as reducing the amount of employee contributions it originally requested for pension and medical benefits.
Antonette Bryant, president of one of the unions, said BART is on notice and has 30 days to hammer out a deal.
"We're not going to let them hijack us and the riding public and we are deeply sorry this had to happen," Bryant said.
Marty Morgenstern, the state's secretary of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency, announced the details shortly after 11 p.m. PDT.
"The contract will be extended until August. 4," Morgenstern said. "The parties will continue to negotiate just as hard as they are now."
There was no immediate word on how the agreement was made to resume service and continue talks.