NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Commuters let out a big sigh of relief Thursday, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an agreement that has averted a crippling Long Island Rail Road strike.
As CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported, riders at Penn Station came up to CBS 2 crews for several hours Thursday afternoon, asking if it was really true that a deal had been hammered out. They wiped their brows as their anxiety melted away upon finding out that a deal indeed had been reached.
“Thank God cooler heads prevailed,” said Joe Corrigan, of Centerport.
“I’m so happy, because to get in from Cedarhurst was going to be a nightmare,” said Marc Tenzer.
“I was planning to drive, maybe park in Williamsburg, and maybe bike over the bridge,” said Chris Hesse, of Bellmore. “You know, they’re not going on strike. It seems like a fair offer.”
Inez, a scientist working on a cure for HIV, told 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten she had planned to work from home, but the lab work would have been put on hold.
“I would have stayed at home and telecommuted, besides doing experiments there’s a lot of work to do,” she said.
News that the looming strike had been averted traveled quickly among commuters, many of whom had been worrying for weeks how they’d get to work if the railroad shut down.
Kathy Tesoreiro’s company already rented laptops for everyone to telecommute.
“Everybody was frustrated,” said Tesoriero, of Huntington. “Our poor conductor on the train — every time we commuted home in the afternoon, we’d be asking him, you know, ‘What’s the deal? What’s the deal? We’re not going to give you our tickets come August.’”
But even with the relief, there was lingering frustration at the aggravation caused by deadlocked negotiations between the MTA and the unions, which were solved at the last minute and only at Cuomo’s insistence.
“I think this was all planned,” Tenzer said. “I think it would have been political suicide for the governor if he didn’t settle the strike.”
“It’s a game anyway,” added Mario Puppio, of Manhattan. “They know what they’re doing anyway, so it’s just politics.”
“I hope they got what they wanted, and we get what I want,” said Buddy Tarallo, of Northport.
When asked if he believed the claim that fares would not go up as a result of the agreement, Corrigan said, “I don’t know yet.”
The LIRR’s unions representing 5,400 workers were threatening to strike starting at 12:01 a.m. Sunday if a deal wasn’t reached, and a work stoppage seemed likely earlier this week when negotiations broke down.
Commuter Bruce Williams was preparing for a grueling commute, WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reported Friday.
“It’s a relief. In the long run, we’re going to pay in our pockets, but it’s a relief,” Williams told Murnane.
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.
Both sides have tried to keep the details of the deal sketchy until it was to be ratified by union membership. But the outlines include:
• A 17 percent wage hike over 6 1/2 years
• The first ever heath care contributions by the 5,400 unionized workers
• Pension and wage progressions concessions for new employees.
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