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Contract negotiations between Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and its two largest unions collapsed last night, prompting members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021 to walk off the job at 12:01 this morning.The strike, the second issued by the unions in the past four months, occurred despite a federal mediator's involvement in the negotiations during the past week. The unions represent 2,300 BART workers.BART General Manager Grace Crunican expressed disappointment that, after six months of "intense negotiations," the two sides were unable to reach a deal."Yesterday, BART gave an updated offer to the unions, reflecting the progress we've made over the past four days of work and it addresses the essential work efficiencies BART desperately needs to modernize operations," she said in a prepared statement. "The package is a 3 percent raise per year for a total of a 12 percent, with a chance to earn up to $1,000 a year if ridership grows. I think the offer is good for the workers and good for BART."SEIU Local 1021 Executive Director Pete Castelli was "surprised and sorry" at the collapse of negotiations, he said in a prepared statement."After a marathon 28-hour bargaining session, BART's two largest unions thought they had the final framework for a deal," he said, adding that that unions believed they had met management's demands on pensions, health care benefits and wages, and offered to send unresolved work rule issues to voluntary binding arbitration.BART management insisted that employees sacrifice workplace protections in exchange for "economic well-being," Castelli said."This was a poison pill for workers: choose between your paycheck and your rights," he said.