While the new contract agreed to by MTA workers has been praised by union leadership, MTA leadership, and Governor Cuomo; questions have arisen today about the long-term costs of the contract, and its potential impact on other ongoing transit contract negotiations.
An analysis of the deal by New York Post columnist Nicole Gelinas argues that by the end of the contract, the average transit worker will earn over $75,000; getting a $6,000 total raise for only a $400 increase in annual health care costs. In addition to those raises, transit workers maintained their retirement age of 55, and gained new paid maternity and paternity leave, and improved vision and dental care.
Where's the money coming from? According to Governor Cuomo, the raises will be paid for by extra cash: A report from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli showed that the MTA had taken in $2 billion more in new resources than it had planned for. Cuomo must be truly convinced that the MTA has no significant financial issues: He just approved a state budget deal that strips $30 million of transit funding.
Even though the deal guarantees that there will be no fare increases now, in January, a MTA spokesman was quoted as saying that "any significant increase in what we have to pay for raises throws our budget out of balance, and will have to be made up for by our customers by higher fares or reduced service." The MTA's own budget proposals for 2014-2017 assumed "three years of 'net-zero' wage growth for represented employees," calling this a "key" and "essential" element of the agency's long-term financial planning.
While the deal will likely have no impact on the massive ongoing labor negotiations for all NYC workers, it could alter the playing field between the MTA and unionized LIRR workers, whose contract has expired and who are threatening to strike in July. According to Newsday, an unnamed LIRR union official said, "Now, I've completely lost faith in the process," because it will undercut their union leverage—and increase the likelihood of a strike. Mediation panels had previously recommended that LIRR unions take a six-year deal with 17% raises; the significantly lower offer accepted by the other MTA unions may lower this.
A Transit Workers Union officer told Newsday, "As much as everyone else might celebrate that this is behind them, this ain't a victory. Am I supposed to do a handstand because I got a 1 percent raise? I really hope it doesn't hurt the Long Island Rail Road."