As BART and its labor unions headed into this weekend with a Sunday night strike deadline looming, the issue wasn't whether workers would get a fair deal, it was how much more gravy management would add.

As a practical matter, the unions had already won.

They entered negotiations earlier this year with train operators, for example, among the highest paid in the nation. On top of that, workers contributed nothing toward their lucrative pensions and received health insurance for just $92 a month, no matter how many dependents.

Elected BART directors talked about the very real need to control personnel costs, and to protect funds to help cover billions of dollars of unmet capital needs. Unfortunately, directors haven't walked their talk. The longer negotiations drag on, the more they give.

Jim Allison, center, BART Deputy Chief Communications Officer, talks with members of the media outside Caltrans offices during negotiations with BART
Jim Allison, center, BART Deputy Chief Communications Officer, talks with members of the media outside Caltrans offices during negotiations with BART management and union members on Oct. 10, 2013, in Oakland.

Before Friday, directors had already offered a deal that included a 10.25 percent salary increase over four years. The $92-a-month health care deal would remain in place. While workers would be required to start paying toward their pensions, rising to 4 percent of salary four years from now, most California public employees already pay much more.

On Friday, there was a sense that directors might make a last offer that would further sweeten the deal. The money must come from somewhere. BART financial managers have already warned of additional fare hikes and tax increases. As directors give more at the bargaining table, they ratchet up that future public burden.

Unfortunately, the collective bargaining paradigm seeks a compromise between two sides' positions, no matter how unreasonable one of them might be.

For their part, the unions have nothing to lose by stalling, by stringing this out. The longer they wait the more they get. And they have outside lawmakers happy to do their bidding.

With the strike deadline approaching, state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and former Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, who serves as Oakland Mayor Jean Quan's deputy, stuck their noses in where they didn't belong.

We're not just talking about a phone call to BART directors encouraging settlement. They showed up on Thursday to "help" broker a deal and, in the case of the current legislators, actually tried to gain seats at the bargaining table.

It was brutal political pressure, with no concern for the financial consequences. The state certainly has no money to help out. As for Quan, her mismanagement of Oakland speaks for itself.

It's time for BART directors to say no -- and mean it. If the unions want to reject this sweet deal and strike, so be it. This madness has gone on too long.