Commuters heave a Sigh of Relief
NEW YORK (TIP): The MTA and LIRR unions signed a sixand-a-half year agreement with 17 percent wage hikes on Thursday, July 17, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo brokered a deal in his Midtown offices, averting a devastating strike that would have stranded hundreds of thousands of people, officials said. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced there is a tentative deal between the MTA and the Long Island Rail Road unions, averting a strike that could have come this weekend. With MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast and the unions’ chief negotiator Anthony Simon seated by his side, Cuomo said Thursday, July 17, that a “compromise by both parties” had been reached.
“It is my pleasure to announce today that we have settled a four-year dispute dealing with the Long Island Rail Road labor unions,” Cuomo said. The LIRR’s unions representing 5,400 workers were threatening to strike starting at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, July 20, if a deal wasn’t reached and a strike seemed likely earlier this week when negotiations broke down. The two sides returned to the table Thursday at Cuomo’s Manhattan office, who said he began participating in talks directly after the two sides met Wednesday but failed to come to an agreement.
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a statement: “The New Yorkers who ride the LIRR are vital to our regional economy, and have been another economic setback for the region if the LIRR had come to a grinding halt. I commend the MTA, the LIRR unions and Governor Cuomo for steering negotiations to an agreement.”
The governor had previously said he wouldn’t intervene in the contract dispute. The unions have been working without a contract since 2010. Throughout negotiations, the main sticking point had been whether LIRR employees would have to contribute to pensions and health insurance. Under the terms of the deal reached Thursday, LIRR employees will receive 17 percent raises over six and a half years and contribute to their health insurance costs. New employees will also have different wage progressions and pension plan contributions. The contract will have no impact on MTA fares and will be accommodated within revisions to the MTA financial plan, Cuomo said.
Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano said: “I commend Governor Cuomo for averting a Long Island Rail Road strike, protecting our commuters and safeguarding our economy. The MTA’s longterm financial stability is critical and so is the vital transportation route they provide to Long Island commuters.”
“The agreement reached today provides a fair and reasonable contract,” Prendergast said Thursday. “In a way that protects the commuter as well as the long-term fiscal stability of the MTA.” “We cared about the financial stability of the railroad as well as the members and their financial stability,” Simon said. President Barack Obama had appointed two emergency boards to help resolve the dispute, but the MTA rejected both non-binding recommendations and the unions voted to authorize a strike set to begin on July 20.
NY State Senate candidate and a former New York City Comptroller and former City Council Transportation Committee Chair John Liu said: “The tentative agreement between the MTA and the LIRR unions is welcome news for commuters, workers and the economy of the metropolitan region. Over 10,000 commuters in our district and hundreds of thousands of other riders rely on the LIRR service every day and we are all grateful that this crisis has been averted. Governor Cuomo deserves a great deal of credit for bringing both sides together and helping to reach a fair agreement.”
If a deal wasn’t reached by the strike deadline, the MTA had a contingency plan in place for the LIRR’s 300,000 daily commuters. Options for commuters included shuttle buses, ferries and car pools, but officials were also urging people to telecommute if possible. State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli had estimated that a strike would cause economic losses of $50 million a day. Cuomo said the tentative agreement is still subject to approval by the eight LIRR unions’ executive boards, ratification by their membership and approval by the MTA Board.
Commuters heaved a sigh of relief to hear the news that the MTA and the Unions had reached an agreement and that the threatened strike would not happen. Had the strike taken place it would have upset daily commute of 300, 000 and resulted in a loss of $50M a day for the region. Meanwhile, a number of officials and politicians have applauded the Governor for his effort to bring about the agreement.