A Long Island Rail Road strike is looking likelier as the MTA and labor unions accused each other of not negotiating properly—so keep those contingency plans handy.
United Transportation Union President Anthony Simon, the workers’ chief negotiator, said the MTA rejected the union's counteroffer, "At this point, it is absolutely regrettable to say that we have come to a complete impasse. The MTA has not come with a counteroffer at all and is not moving."
MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast said there's a "gulf" between the agency and the union. Here's the WSJ on what's being argued over:
The MTA’s latest offer would have afforded 17% raises over a term of seven years. All current employees would pay 2% of their regular pay toward health-care costs, up from no contributions. Under the authority’s proposal, it would take new employees longer to reach top pay levels. New employees would contribute 4% of their pay toward health-care costs. And unlike current employees, they would also have to keep contributing to their pensions after 10 years on the job.
The LIRR unions haven’t publicly disclosed their latest counteroffer to the MTA. But federal mediators, in siding with the unions, had recommended 17% in wage bumps over a shorter term of six years. The federal mediators’ also recommended requiring current LIRR employees to contribute 1% of their regular pay toward health-care in 2010, with their contributions escalating to 2.25% in 2015.
Prendergast complained that the LIRR union was bucking the trend of other unions across the country in health care contributions. He also described the union's threat of a strike as a "tool that's used to try and attract attention to an issue... If we're acknowledging that these highest paid employees in the industry are going to get the highest raise in the region, let's find a way to pay for it."
UTU president Simon said that a strike will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday: "Riders should be aware that the winding down of service will begin well before then, perhaps as early as Wednesday, as the railroad needs to secure its equipment."