MTA, Unions May Be Talking for A While

Subways and buses are still running in New York City - despite the lack of a contract between about 34-thousand New York City Transport Workers Union Local 100 members and their employer, the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Neither side offered an update, as talks continued Tuesday to reach an agreement.  The union contract expired Sunday.

But sources close to the negotiations say the MTA is pushing for a 5-year collective bargaining agreement, while the union wants a shorter term. Until the early 1980’s the union and the MTA usually made 2 year agreements.  Then the contracts got longer.  The Union opposes longer contracts that might cut its members out of any increases.

Other sticking points include heath care and wage increases.  The union wants raises to match the increasing cost of living, while the MTA wants to keep payroll costs down, as part of statewide budget cuts.

Healthcare is another point of contention.  The MTA wants union members to pay more for their healthcare, to counter spiraling health expenses.  The union says the increases add up to between $4,500 and $5,000-dollars per year out of pocket for workers.  That translates to lost earnings for middle class workers, the union said.

The negotiations could drag on; the MTA laid off about 1,000 workers in 2010, and the workforce is pretty spare.  MTA is not expected to lay off more workers this year.  At some point, both sides could declare an impasse, and arbitration would have to take place.

The last transit workers strike was in December, 2005.  It lasted three days and stranded millions of people, stuck without subway and bus service.