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Second major transit agency strike threatened in San Francisco area

By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Bus drivers for a major San Francisco-area transit agency threatened on Monday to strike over pay and conditions, less than 24 hours after California's governor intervened to avert a massive commuter rail strike in the area.

The union representing 1,800 drivers, mechanics and clerical workers threatened to walk off the job on Wednesday over wage, healthcare cost and safety issues, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson said.

The transit agency serves 181,000 bus riders daily in two large East Bay counties, which include the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, and downtown San Francisco.

Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, the union representing the workers, asked for a 10.25 percent wage increase over three years, Johnson said.

Management offered a 9 percent increase over the same period and requested that members pay 10 percent of their healthcare premiums, Johnson said. Members currently do not pay a premium, he said.

"It's pretty cut and dry. It's a matter of money," Johnson said.

Union spokeswoman Sharon Cornu said the strike threat was about health and safety concerns and not just about money.

"Substantial health and safety issues, including meal and rest periods, and fundamental human rights are at stake," union President Yvonne Williams said in a statement.

The threatened bus strike follows a narrowly avoided strike by employees of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, the Bay Area's central rail system that carries 400,000 passengers daily.

After failing to negotiate new contract terms, the two unions representing 2,400 rail system workers on Thursday submitted a three-day notice of intent to strike.

Governor Jerry Brown stepped in last minute on Sunday night and delayed a possible strike for seven days, appointing a three-member board to investigate the strike. A rail strike would be prohibited while the investigation is underway.

Contracts for both groups of transit workers expired on July 1.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Lisa Shumaker)

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