AC Transit bus drivers and mechanics had no new contact agreement but no plans to strike as their three-year-old labor deal was set to expire at midnight Wednesday amid disagreements over cost-cutting proposals.
Earlier Wednesday, the union for 1,750 AC Transit bus drivers, mechanics, and other workers sought a court order to turn over the contract dispute to an outside arbitrator.
A court hearing on the request is set for July 16 in Alameda County Superior Court.
"We do not want a strike. The drivers are going to be at work (today)," said Claudia Hudson, a bus driver and president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192. "We are willing to negotiate."
AC Transit is the third largest public transit system in the Bay Area, carrying some 236,000 bus riders per weekday in a 364-square-mile area from Richmond to Fremont in two counties.
AC Transit management disclosed last week that it asked ATU leaders for $15.7 million in concessions through work rule changes and having employees make a co-pay contribution toward health insurance.
The district has projected a budget deficit of $56 million by June 2011.
To shrink the projected deficit, AC Transit raised bus fares from $1.75 to $2 last year, cut bus service 7.8 percent in March, and approved a 7.2 percent service cut scheduled to go into effect in late August. But that's not enough, district managers said.
"Now is the time for the ATU leadership to step up
and help preserve essential bus service," Mary King, AC Transit's interim general manager, said in a prepared statement last week.
"This gives me no great joy ... but we must ask for an overall reduction of labor costs in the range of 8 percent."
The union has offered to make concessions, but less than the district has sought.
Contract talks began in April.
A mediator has presided over recent talks.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267.