Let's get this straight from the outset: The BART strike is not over. Far from it.

And, from where we sit, the likelihood that the Bay Area will be without commuter train service again in the near future remains very high.

While BART's trains began running again on Friday following a perplexing negotiated temporary truce, there should be no rejoicing.

BART workers had been on strike since midnight Sunday, when their most recent contract expired. Train service was halted from Monday through Thursday and into the afternoon on Friday.

Passengers enter the fare gates at Embarcadero BART Station in San Francisco as the transit agency resumed service Friday afternoon — launching
Passengers enter the fare gates at Embarcadero BART Station in San Francisco as the transit agency resumed service Friday afternoon — launching trains for the first time in nearly five days. (Gary Reyes/ Bay Area News Group)

Although the sides are far apart, for some reason, they suddenly agreed late Thursday night to extend the current contract through Aug. 4 and resume train service while negotiators attempt to resolve their differences. By all accounts, those differences are so monumental it is heard to imagine the chasm can be spanned in a mere 30 days.

That, of course, means we likely face a redux work stoppage sometime in early August.

While the battle is joined at the negotiating table, the real tussle here -- as is the case in most every strike of public employees -- is for the hearts and minds of the people paying the bills, i.e. the taxpayers and the fare-paying public.

By most metrics we have at our disposal to measure public sentiment, that battle was not going so well for the unions.

After all, as we have said before, BART workers, who seek a 23 percent pay increase, are already the top-paid transit system employees in the region and among the best-paid in the nation. They have free pensions, health care coverage for their entire family for just $92 a month and the same sweet medical insurance deal when they retire after just five years on the job.

They work only 37½ hours a week. They can call in sick during the workweek and then volunteer for overtime shifts on their days off. Such rules exacerbate out-of-control overtime that added in 2012 an average 19 percent to base pay for station agents and 33 percent for train operators.

For many of the inconvenienced people who depend on BART daily to get to their private-sector jobs that carry much less lavish compensation packages, this strike has been a tough sell.

The 30-day break will give the unions time to refashion their public-relations messages in hopes of enlisting some public support. We can see why they would want to do that. However, we have a difficult time understanding why BART's negotiators would agree to the extension.

We have our theories but no real way to prove them because we, like the rest of the people paying the bills, are left to wonder since these union-negotiating sessions are allowed to be conducted in private.

All that is left for us is to hope that the extension is a sincere effort to reach a fair and equitable deal that will avert future train service disruptions without giving away the store.