No end in sight to San Francisco commuter rail strike


By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 20 (Reuters) - San Francisco facedanother day without its commuter rail system on Sunday with notalks scheduled to resolve the strike, and vigils were held fortwo workers killed in a track accident.

The strike against the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency, whichcarries about 400,000 riders a day, began on Friday aftercontract talks broke down over pay and workplace rules.

With no talks scheduled, the walkout by more than 2,000workers is expected to snarl traffic as the city returns to workthis week.

Antonette Bryant, the president of the Amalgamated TransitUnion Local 1555, said her union would put the latest contractoffer to a vote, but predicted it would be rejected, the SanFrancisco Chronicle reported.

The vote would not be scheduled until later in the week, thenewspaper said.

The Service Employees International Union Local 1021declined to say whether its members would vote on the offer, thenewspaper reported.

SEIU late on Sunday said it delivered to management a "newcounterproposal" that offered flexibility on rules governingworkplace technology, but declined to offer details. Neither ofthe major unions nor management could be reached for comment.

The BART Board of Directors is set to meet in Oakland onMonday afternoon to discuss the labor talks with the transitsystem's general manager and its labor negotiations team.

The two workers killed on Saturday were a BART employee anda contractor, BART officials said. One of the workers belongedto the American Federation of State, County and MunicipalEmployees, which is not on strike.

They were checking a possible dip in the track just north ofthe station in suburban Walnut Creek when a BART trainfunctioning on automatic control, with an operator inside,struck and killed them, the agency said in a statement.

The National Transportation Safety Board began aninvestigation of the incident on Sunday, NTSB chief investigatorJim Southworth told a news conference. He said it would takefour to 10 days to complete the investigation.

Southworth did not release the identities of those involvedin the accident. He would not confirm whether a BART manager wasoperating the train or if the NTSB would investigate theaccident in connection with the strike.

Roughly 60 people in dark clothing, some wearing workuniforms, gathered at the Lake Merritt BART station in downtownOakland for a candlelight vigil honoring the dead workers.

"It's a huge loss for the BART family," said PatriciaSchuchardt, president of the American Federation of State,County and Municipal Employees Local 3993 (AFSCME), representingone of the dead workers.

AFSCME, with 220 middle-management BART employees, has notcalled a strike, but most of its members have walked off the jobin support of SEIU and ATU strikers, Schuchardt said.

The BART walkout is the second this year, after unionizedworkers went on strike for 4-1/2 days in July. The unions andBART management were unable to reach a deal in the followingmonths.

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