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Talks Collapse Between MTA and Long Island Rail Road Workers

Monday, July 14, 2014 - 02:00 PM

LIRR passengers buying tickets at Penn Station (Daisuke Fujii/flickr)

Talks broke down Monday afternoon between the MTA and an eight-union coalition representing Long Island Rail Road workers.

Union chief Anthony Simon said he's preparing for a strike that could come as early as 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

"At this point, we are completely at an impasse," Simon said. "We are miles and miles away, and there are no meetings that are scheduled at this point."

MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast said he won't compromise any further with the unions. "In the spirit of negotiations, it's give and take," Prendergast said. "We've done the giving, they've done the taking. But they haven't moved at all — slightly, very smally — from their position. Until they're ready to move, there's no reason to have negotiations."

When asked what might prevent a strike from happening, union chief Simon responded: "the governor."

The 5,400 workers represented by the unions have been without a contract since 2010. The unions want a 17 percent raise over six years. The MTA has countered with the same raise over seven years — and wants new hires to pay more into health care and pension costs.

Despite the pessimism on both sides, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he's optimistic that there will be a resolution and said he's confident in the state and city's backup plan, should a strike take place. The mayor added that he doesn't plan to cancel his 10-day family trip to Italy, which is scheduled to begin two days before the strike deadline.

"We benefit from the fact that it’s July and I think the amount of travel is reduced in July," he told reporters. "We benefit from the fact that a lot of people now because of technology can work from home and I imagine if that event comes to pass a lot people will work from home who live on Long Island."

Local businesses are making contingency plans. ConEd supervisors are discussing flex time and telecommuting options with workers, a spokesman said. One Midtown real estate firm, the Durst Organization, said that about 50 of their 800 employees would be directly affected by a strike. "Those who are considered critical staff will be housed at hotels within the five boroughs with easy access to the subways. For those non-critical staff, we will organize car pools," said spokesman Jordan Barowitz.

The Long Island Rail Road provides 300,000 rides a day. Nearly 10 percent of those rides are solely within New York City.

With reporting from Brigid Bergin and Daniel Tucker and additional writing from Jorteh Senah.

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Comments [2]

Mark from Berkshire County, MA

Erika from Islip is right on target, especially in her last paragraph. Mr. Cuomo simply doesn't give a rat's butt. He's a self-proclaimed "car guy" who's too busy trying to bulldoze, buffalo, browbeat, and bully all those questioning how he's going to come up with the state match, and a repayment plan the $1.6 billion federal "loan", for the new (and transit-less) Tappan Zee Bridge. Mr. Cuomo obviously considers commuter rail and NYCTransit passengers as children of a lesser god.

And Mayor De Blasio's refusal to cancel or at least postpone his trip to Italy is reprehensible. He's the mayor. It's a time of crisis. No one put a gun to his head and made him run for mayor. He wanted the job and he has a responsibility to stick around when the going gets tough.

Jul. 15 2014 03:05 PM
Erika A. from Islip, NY

I cannot believe that neither the mayor nor the governor is taking this strike seriously. It's very shortsighted to blithely say that "LIRR commuters can work from home," or that most will be on vacation in July. A strike will have a ripple effect on many businesses that serve Long Islanders who work in the city (from taxis and retail stores to restaurants and bars), as well as on businesses on Long Island that depend on tourism for survival (i.e., vacation spots like Montauk, the Hamptons, and Fire Island). Roads and bridges will be more congested, and productivity will decline because getting to work will take three to four times as long for many.

The alternatives offered by the LIRR are inadequate, since they merely focus on the logistics of people getting in and out of the city and the Island at rush hour. They assume that people can get rides to bus pick-up stops, since there is no way two locations in Suffolk can hold (at least) quadruple the amount of cars commuters usually park in 25+ plus lots besides Deer Park and Ronkonkoma. And 350 buses (with an average of 50 seats) can hold probably only a little more than half the usual number of riders (30,000) estimated in and out of the city daily.

Yet, the mayor is still going to vacation in Italy, and the governor refuses to do anything to set the unions against his re-election prospects next year. We, the commuters, who only want to get to work—a basic need—are stuck with the consequences of their inaction and false optimism.

Jul. 15 2014 10:08 AM

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