NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Negotiations continued Friday afternoon, but no deal had been reached between the Long Island Rail Road and the unions that would avert a strike next month.
And as CBS 2’s Sonia Rincon reported, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has come up with a preliminary contingency plan in case a strike goes ahead.
Union contracts expire in six weeks and bargaining is deadlocked. LIRR workers could walk off the job as soon as a month from Friday.
With that in mind, the MTA said if commuters want to start planning ahead of time, they can start talking to their employers about possibly working from home or taking vacation days — because getting into the city will be a nightmare.”
The MTA has been bracing for the reality of 300,000 commuters that rely on trains having to find another way.
“You could expect it will take you at least twice as long as normal to get to work,” said MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg. “It’s not going to be fast. It’s not going to be comfortable.”
A draft plan of where shuttle buses might pick up passengers was leaked to the media, and elected officials criticized it as inadequate. Lisberg said there is nothing that can replace LIRR service, but there will be buses to shuttle people from six LIRR stations to the subways in Queens as a last resort.
In addition, park and ride locations would be set up at Citi Field and Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.
“We have draft contingency plans that are still changing every day as we work with our governmental partners on Long Island, so it’s way too early to talk about what our final plan would be,” Lisberg said.
Transit advocates said the contingency plan doesn’t go nearly far enough to accommodate the LIRR’s 300,000 daily commuters.
Anthony Simon of the United Transportation Union is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to get involved in negotiations.
“The only problem we can see is if the MTA causes their own strike,”he told WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs. “We have done everything in our own power to completely try to prevent that. We have also asked for an extension. They have still yet to accept that.”
Lisberg said the MTA has been talking with major businesses about staggering shifts, or having people work from home. But the main plan right now is to continue negotiating with the unions.
“We need both sides to be at the table — to compromise, to talk, and to work out a solution,” Lisberg said.
In May, a White House-appointed mediation panel rejected an MTA proposal for a union contract, the second time the board has sided with the union.
The three-member Presidential Emergency Board issued its nonbinding resolution, calling the union’s proposal of a 17 percent pay hike over six years a “reasonable” solution and rejecting the MTA’s 11 percent offer.
But the unions representing railroad workers said both sides are still miles apart. Commuters don’t like the sound of that.
“They should just settle,” said LIRR commuter Richard Eisenberg. “There should be a little give and take. Just settle it.”
“I’m going to start driving in, because there’s nothing else that’s going to get us in,” said another man who said he has to commute into the city to work every day.
“It would be a mess. Obviously, you know, the expressway and the parkway would be even more crowded,” said LIRR commuter Steve Maddenberg.
There is talk of pushing the strike date back six weeks to September. But the MTA said it will not agree to that plan because of the impact it would have on kids getting to school.
LIRR unions have been without a contract since 2010, WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reported.
The unions were planning a rally for Saturday at the Massapequa train station.
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