No New Talks Set Between MTA, LIRR Unions As Possible Strike Deadline Nears
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – There is still no deal between union workers and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to avert a possible Long Island Rail Road strike in just nine days.
No new talks have been scheduled after the two sides spent more than five hours negotiating on Thursday, but both sides said they’re working in good faith to prevent a work stoppage.
Having just settled a number of long-standing labor disputes with city workers, Mayor Bill de Blasio is urging both sides to continue talks, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“I just want to urge both sides to get back to the table and try at it with all they have to avoid this disruption to the people they serve,” he said. “We’re hopeful the strike will be averted.”
MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast said Thursday’s discussions were useful.
“They came in and made a formal counteroffer, which was discussed,” he said. “We’ve got more discussions to have with them. We’re all concerned to try to reach resolution with this particular issue and we will continue to discuss it.”
“I think everybody in that room has the same intent right now to make sure we can prevent the strike,” said Anthony Simon with the United Transportation Union.
The latest round of negotiations began after members of Congress refused to intervene.
The railroad’s unions have been working without a contract since 2010.
President Barack Obama 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.
The last emergency board proposal called for a 17 percent raise over six years while leaving work rules and pensions alone.
The MTA is offering a 17 percent wage increase over seven years and also is seeking concessions including requiring current employees to contribute 2 percent of regular pay toward health care costs.
Currently, LIRR workers don’t contribute toward their health insurance.
While no new talks have been scheduled, both sides expressed a commitment to try to get a deal done before the strike deadline.
On Wednesday, the MTA launched a radio and print campaign to warn commuters of the potential strike. In addition to the ads, the MTA has posted a page on its website with information about potential service disruption.
Some riders say neither side is showing any sense of urgency and they’re concerned where a strike would leave them.
“‘I’m going to have to drive 45 minutes to an hour to Queens then take a subway to the city just to get to work,” said LIRR rider Oppong Agyemang. “I mean at some point, we should be able to come to a resolution, figure out a solution to this problem.”
“I was a little annoyed about the little card that was left on my seat this morning saying take a vacation week,” said rider Stephanie Hall. “I don’t feel that’s right. I don’t think that’s a logical solution for a huge problem.”
In the event of a strike, the MTA has said the agency plans to have shuttle buses bring a percentage of riders to Queens, where they could catch a subway train to Manhattan.
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