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MTA reviewing union counteroffer after “productive day” on Thursday

Posted: 12:22 PM, Jul 09, 2014
Updated: 2014-07-11 14:24:10-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. (PIX11) -- Friday, MTA officials continue to review a counter ffer from the Long Island Rail Road labor coalition. The agency also will hold a teleconference with reporters Friday afternoon "to explain contingency plans that have been created to help New Yorkers travel in the event that LIRR service is suspended by a labor action."

Thursday's meetings were described, in public comments, as a productive day for negotiators working to resolve the LIRR contract dispute. But the two sides still have some issues to work out and a strike is still on the table.

Representatives from the LIRR labor coalition met with MTA President Tom Prendergast. The union coalition submitted a counter offer and the MTA is evaluating it. Both sides have promised further discussions.

Details of the offer were not made public.

On Wednesday afternoon, members of the New York delegation indicated Congress would not get involved.

Talks broke down on Tuesday and the agency's chairman headed to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers about the labor dispute Wednesday morning.

PIX11 News' Greg Mocker also traveled to the nation's capital to bring you the latest on the negotiations and the potentially crippling strike looming over nearly 300,000 commuters who use the LIRR daily.

The NY delegation in Congress said it would not intervene in the labor dispute, saying the transportation agency and the rail road union need to come to an agreement on their own. Representatives asked leaders on both sides to meet again and bring offers to the table.

The elected representatives say this is a labor and management issue that needs to the resolved in the state.

Representative Peter King (R-New York) says Congressional intervention would be a "roll of the dice."

Representative Steve Israel (D-Long Island) says it's time to bring in the "cots and extra coffee."

LIRR labor coalition leader Anthony Simon said, "Why are we waiting for Congress? We are not looking for Congressional involvement. Let's do it today."

The Federal Railway Labor Act outlines the procedures during LIRR and Metro-North negotiations if with side believes there is a stalemate.

On July 20 at 12:01 a.m., a cooling off period ends. Workers have voted to support a strike or both sides could continue talking.

In the event of a strike under the federal law, Congress has the authority to order a settlement or eventually order them back to work. The state and union leaders could adopt their own agreement. Leaders have speculated this current divided Congress would not be quick to take up the issue.

In 1994, a two-day LIRR strike ended when then-Governor Mario Cuomo agreed to the union's terms. His son, Andrew, was an advisor during that term and he is now New York's Governor.

“I want to thank the New York State Congressional Delegation for making it abundantly clear today that Congress will not act to bring about a labor settlement at the Long Island Rail Road," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

"With this obstacle removed, it is now clear that the only path to resolution is at the bargaining table between the MTA and the unions, and they should proceed in good faith."

On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said this was not the same as other union contracts he helped negotiate and that the role of Congress was "pivotal."

The MTA has offered 17% raises to current employees over 7 years. A point of disagreement is the MTA's additional provision that the agency says would pay for the increase.

New hires would pay higher pension and health care contributions. The raises for new hires would be spread over a longer amount of time.

About 5,200 LIRR workers have been without a contract since 2010. A federal review board recommended a package that included 17 percent raises over 6 years and a 2 percent employee health care contribution.

The union coalition has said it would accept that recommendation. But the MTA said it can’t afford the deal, which it said would force the agency to use funds that could be put toward projects.

The MTA has offered 17 percent raises for current employees over 7 years, with new hires contributing 4 percent to health care and more to their pensions. Raises for the new hires would be every other year instead of every year (for a period of 10 years, instead of 5).

The unions say that would diminish the quality of the jobs.

As of Friday, July 11, 2014, this was the offer being discussed as detailed by the MTA at the end of June.

MTA's LIRR offer