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Transport Workers, Needing to Bargain With NY MTA Chair Prendergast, Open With Praise

Friday, April 12, 2013 - 06:04 PM

Now that the NY MTA has a new chairman in Tom Prendergast, and Local Transport Workers Union 100 has a recently re-elected president in John Samuelsen, the two sides can now sit down hammer out a contract.

They begin the difficult task with slightly warmer relations than they've had recently, which may mean a higher chance of success. Or not.

Negotiations between TWU Local 100 and previous chairman Joe Lhota began on an optimistic note in early 2012, but no agreement had been reached by the time Lhota left the NY MTA in December to run for mayor. Prior to Lhota, the union went through a year of open enmity with NY MTA chairman Jay Walder, before he left to run a transit and real estate company in Hong Kong.

As of now, the union has been without a contract for 15 months, and the two sides haven't spoken over the last half year. Now the talks will reset with Prendergast and Samuelsen.

TWU Local 100 president John Samuelsen.

Speaking at a meeting of business leaders last week, Prendergast praised the workers he must now negotiate with. "We have over 500 billion dollars in assets at the MTA but the most important asset is our employees," he said. "The most important asset is the people who run the system."

TWU spokesman Jim Gannon said this to TN about the Prendergast appointment: “It’s a good move by Governor Cuomo. Prendergast has vast knowledge of the system, and that’s really what the MTA needs – not a bean counter like Walder or a person with big financial and political connections like Lhota.  We’ve always had a good working relationship with Prendergast, despite a few flare-ups here and there.  But on the whole, everyone on this side of the table respects him.”

The talks matter because a balanced budget for the NY MTA rests in part on getting the union to agree to either three years of flat pay or pay increases offset by rules concessions that bring increased productivity. Without those three “net-zeroes,” the NY MTA’s chronically fragile finances would become even more problematic, with cuts in service a possibility.

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