Wednesday, May 21, 2014

LIRR strike probability increases

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New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is signaling its willingness to endure a strike by Long Island Rail Road employees, following a non-binding Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) decision seemingly favoring union stances.

The PEB recommended MTA accept proposals by the United Transporation Union (UTU) Local 645 for wage increases of 17% over a five-year period, along with retaining existing pension obligations. UTU (and other unions) are allowed to strike within 60 days of the ruling, issued Tuesday, May 20, 2014.

MTA had countered with a package paralleling one accepted earlier this week by Transport Workers Union Local 100 for New York City Transit (NYCT). But the PEB did not view this as a comparable situation, and rejected MTA's stance.

In a statement issued May 20, the MTA said: "The MTA is disappointed that the Presidential Emergency Board did not accept as the most reasonable offer our proposal for 11% raises over six years for the Long Island Rail Road unions, consistent with the agreement overwhelmingly ratified by the Transport Workers Union. Our proposal is a fair and reasonable way to recognize our employees' hard work and provide them with competitive wages, retroactive pay, quality healthcare and secure pensions.

"If adopted, the Board recommendation would significantly reduce funds available for the MTA Capital Plan. We still believe a fair, reasonable and affordable agreement can be negotiated at the bargaining table, as it was with the TWU," MTA said.

Long Island Rail Road in 2013 reassumed its position as the largest U.S. regional passenger railroad by passenger loading, edging out sister railroad Metro-North. A strike presumably would exacerbate existing road traffic woes on the railroad's namesake territory.