NY MTA Contract Talks With Union Delayed

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TWU Local 100 president John Samuelsen and NY MTA executive director Joe Lhota before start of contract talks. (Photo by Jim O'Grady)

(New York, NY - WNYC) The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its main union have cancelled a bargaining session only ten days before their labor contract is to expire.

The heads of the union and the NY MTA were supposed to hold their first face to face talks on Thursday. But that probably won't happen until after NY MTA executive director Joe Lhota has his confirmation hearing before the State Senate on Monday.

Lhota is expected to be confirmed as chairman and CEO of the NY MTA. That should put him in a better position to strike a deal with Transport Workers Union Local 100 president John Samuelson.

Both sides say preliminary talks have gone fairly well. Gone is the animosity that Samuelson, a track worker, felt toward former MTA chief Jay Walder. One union official described the problematic relationship this way: "Walder condescended to John, like he still had steel dust under his fingertips. But John feels Lhota is genuine and honest."

At least that's the feeling for now. The two sides will probably need to agree that any pay raises over the next three years be offset by measurable productivity gains or benefit cuts.

For example, the NY MTA is asking the TWU to allow a combining of the train conductor and train operator jobs. New hires would be trained to do both tasks, allowing the authority to pay fewer workers to stand in reserve in case an operator / conductor misses work because of sickness or some other reason.

That's just one of many issues to be worked out in a negotiation that has begun well but which neither side expects to be easy.