Four days before strike deadline, LIRR, MTA to resume talks

Posted: 10:02 AM, Jul 16, 2014
Updated: 2014-07-16 13:45:03-04

NEW YORK (PIX11) — Both sides will return to the bargaining table Wednesday as the MTA and rail road union try to break a stalemate as a potentially crippling LIRR strike looms.

Some 5,400 rail workers could walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Sunday if the parties fail to come to an agreement, leaving the LIRR’s nearly 300,000 daily riders in a lurch.

“The MTA remains committed to resolving this dispute at the bargaining table. As Governor Cuomo said, a strike would disrupt families and business across the New York metropolitan region, and the only way to prevent a strike is for both sides to negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement at the bargaining table,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said Wednesday morning.

“We have asked the LIRR unions to resume negotiations immediately.”

A strike could cost up to $50 million in lost economic activity each day, state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.

After days of avoiding the fray and seemingly downplaying the strike’s impact on commuters and businesses, Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged both sides Wednesday to restart the talks, saying a work stoppage would hold Long Islanders “hostage.”

“The Long Island Rail Road is a critical transportation system for Long Island and New York City. …,” Cuomo said. “Both the MTA and the LIRR unions need to put the interests of New Yorkers first by returning to the table today and working continuously to avoid a strike.”

Talks between the MTA and union representatives collapsed Monday after 45 minutes of negotiations. Last week, Congress rejected the parties’ request for federal help to resolve the problem.

The MTA is offering current LIRR workers a 17 percent raise over seven years, but the union wants those raises over six years.

The agency’s latest offer asks that current rail workers contribute 2 percent of their base salary to health care contributions, for which they current pay nothing.

In exchange for the above changes, the MTA has asked that future LIRR workers contribute 4 percent to health care coverage, contribute to their pensions throughout their career and work more years to reach top pay.

MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast said that if the MTA were to agree to the union’s terms, additional pressure would be put on fare increases.

This is a developing story. Refresh this page for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.