LIRR Unions Hopeful in Reaching Agreement With MTA

By Catherine Yang, Epoch Times
February 21, 2014 Updated: February 21, 2014

NEW YORK—Long Island Railroad labor unions held a legislative briefing on their possibly impending strike at the Transport Workers Union office Friday, where concerned legislators hoped for a solution.

“Is there something we could do legislatively so that when there is no contract that a a certain amount of money has to be put in an escrow account until that contract gets settled?” one suggested.

Earlier this month on Feb. 5, LIRR unions had voted for a strike that would go into effect March 21. Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Tom Prendergast had previously told State legislators a raise would require a 12 percent fare hike for MTA customers this year.

On Feb. 19, 12 New York Congress members wrote a letter urging the MTA to come to an agreement. On Feb. 20, Prendergast wrote a letter in reply, assuring officials that they have agreed to another mediated negotiation.

“You may rest assured, if for any reason you have been led to think otherwise,” Prendergast wrote.

Next week, MTA will meet with the labor unions in Washington, D.C. Feb. 27–28.

If those negotiations don’t lead to a settlement, MTA LIRR will request a second Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) so that the earliest the unions can legally strike will be pushed back to July 20, 2014. Prendergast has previously said it was very uncommon to need a second PEB, but there was the possibility of the MTA asking for one.

“We’re hopeful that they’re going to change their position,” said Joel Parker, who represented the unions in all the previous mediation meetings.

Parker said they had reached out to MTA after the PEB, but the first time they got a response was two weeks ago. In that reply, MTA had agreed to another mediated negotiation on the condition the first PEB recommendations were thrown out.

An area where the two parties have not been able to come to an agreement is with work rule changes.

The first PEB report did not include any of the work rule changes MTA asked for in the contract, but did recommended MTA and the unions negotiate individual ones.

“The MTA wants too many work rule changes,” said TWU Local 100 president John Samuelsen. The changes include part time bus drivers and having one employee per train instead of train, which Samuelsen said they absolutely would not agree to.

Other work rules changes MTA requested including creating split shifts for some of the collector and conductor positions.

“The MTA wants to give these workers raises, they deserve raises,” said MTA spokesperson Adam Lisberg, “but there are some very antiquated work rules that are very costly.”