MTA, Union Officials At Odds Over Just How Reasonable Latest Proposal Is

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Commuter Council is warning Long Island Rail Road riders to plan ahead for a possible work strike next month.

Council members have been handing out fliers urging riders to consider carpooling, working from home, staying in the city or using vacation time.

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Many riders are already mulling the options.

“Probably consider working from home, that’ll probably be my best option,” one man said.

“I’d have to stay in the city. It’s looking like a hotel right now,” another man said. “My job is at risk, I have to do that.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has come up with a preliminary contingency plan in case a strike goes ahead.

The agency is lining up locations at Citi Field, Nassau Community College and John F. Kennedy International Airport, where commuters can park to carpool or get to alternative transportation, WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reported.

A plan to provide buses to shuttle people from six LIRR stations to subways in Queens is being criticized by elected officials.

Riders from Nassau County would park and board shuttle buses at the Bellmore, Freeport and Seaford stations.

“That will absolutely devastate our local downtown. It will decimate the shopper parking, it will destroy neighborhoods and our business district,” Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray told Xirinachs. “The bottom line is there are over 30 stations on the Babylon line, and MTA’s plan is to cram those 30 stations worth of commuters into three.”

“They put all of the burden on the Town of Hempstead and it is simply an unworkable plan,” Murray added. “This is certainly a sad excuse for a plan. The result is a prescription for disaster. It’s time to go back to the drawing board.”

Added Hempstead councilman Gary Hudes: “Just like these sneakers, the LIRR plan stinks.”

In Suffolk County, shuttle buses will be available in Ronkonkoma, Deer Park and Hicksville.

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said last week that the draft contingency plans “are still changing every day” and it’s too early “to talk about what our final plan would be.”

Lisberg said the MTA has been talking with major businesses about staggering shifts, or having people work from home, but the main plan is to continue negotiating with the unions.

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“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 had 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.

On Tuesday, the MTA said its latest proposal is reasonable and makes modifications for new employees, including a new wage progression.

However, union officials said the proposal is more like a provocation.They blasted how the agency took it straight to the media, and said it simply does not deliver what it says, CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported.

MTA Director of Labor Relations Anita Miller told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern it would be a mistake for the unions to call a strike when the railroad is giving them what they’re asking for.

“The parties agreed to meet this coming Friday, June 27. It is our strong desire that they not only show up, but that they negotiate,” Miller said.

Miller told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell the MTA is now offering a 17 percent wage increase over seven years.

The unions have asked for the increase over six years and while current employees make pension contributions for 10 years, new hires would pay in for the length of their service.

“New employees would also contribute 4 percent of their base pay toward health care insurance,” Miller added.

Current employees would be asked to pay 2 percent. They currently pay nothing.

LIRR unions, without a contract since 2010, could strike on July 20.

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.

The railroad carries 300,000 daily commuters.

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