Thursday, February 06, 2014

LIRR's largest union OKs strike

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Long Island Rail Road riders may have to brace for a strike as early as next month, following a unanimous vote Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, by the LIRR's largest union authorizing a strike.

The vote, held by two local chapters of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union (SMART), readied the union for a strike as early as March 21. A third SMART local reportedly did not participate in the vote.

SMART represents approximately 2,700 workers, ranging from train conductors to mechanics to cleaners, that work for the LIRR, once again the nation's largest regional passenger railroad

LIRR's labor force of 6,000 has lacked a contract for longer than three years. Labor says LIRR and parent company Metropolitan Transportation Authority should heed a settlement recommendation by a Presidential Emergency Board, which MTA has rejected.

The Presidential Emergency Board recommended MTA pay workers an additional 2.85% a year for six years, without raising passenger fares in 2015 more than the planned 4%. Union members, in turn, would contribute 2% of an individual's base pay to health care coverage. But the MTA seeks a three-year wage freeze from all of its workers unless pay increases are offset by cost savings related to productivity.