Labor Deal for Bus and Subway Workers

After two years of occasionally rancorous negotiations, the MTA and the union representing 34,000 transit workers have announced a tentative deal to give the rank-and-file 2 percent raises in each of the next three years. That's on top of a retroactive 1 percent raise that covers the last two years.

The contract also provides for what John Samuelsen, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, described as "historic paid maternity and paternity leave, as well as important improvements to our membership’s health-care, dental, and eye benefit package."

The authority agreed to the raises without work rule concessions from the union, even though MTA chairman Tom Prendergast, along with previous chairmen, had insisted on negotiated productivity gains to offset any raises. But even without such concessions, all sides said the agency could pay for the settlement without an additional fare increase above the 4 percent hike planned for next year.

"The resolution of this contract dispute is fair to transit workers, fiscally responsible for the MTA, and will have no impact on fares," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who entered negotiations toward the end to help nail down the contract.

The deal gives Cuomo, who has had a rocky relationship with state workers' unions, a measure of labor peace heading into his re-election campaign.

MTA officials said the wage increases "will be accommodated within revisions to the MTA financial plan," but wouldn't say how much it would cost. The union's executive board, and members, still need to ratify the agreement. So does the MTA board.

In an email, Gene Russianoff of The Straphangers Campaign voiced cautious praise for the deal, beginning with approval of no additional fare hike. "The MTA had earlier raised the possibility of a much higher fare increase, one at double the rate of inflation," he said. "In the wake of widespread public outrage, the MTA pledged no more than a 4 percent increase — and possibly even less if the agency's finances continued to improve."

"The devil is always in the details," Russianoff said. "Like many others, we reserve final judgment until we study the management-labor contract."