NY transit workers reach tentative contract deal
Transit officials and the union representing about 34,000 city subway and bus workers reached a tentative contract deal that would include raises and new benefits but require higher health insurance payments, both sides and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
The agreement, subject to approval from union members and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's board, comes more than two years after the last contract lapsed and one day after Cuomo's office got involved at the union's request.
"This agreement is a fair agreement" for the MTA and the workers, and it won't spur any fare increases for millions of bus and subway riders, Cuomo said. Some hikes have already been built into the agency's future projections, but the proposed contract wouldn't require raising fares further.
Still, the MTA, which operates the nation's largest mass transit system, faces further contract wrangling with other union workers at its Long Island Rail Road. After working without a contract since 2010, various LIRR unions have voted in recent months to authorize strikes. President Barack Obama has appointed a Presidential Emergency Board to help resolve the dispute; any work stoppage won't happen before July, at the earliest.
While the subway and bus union negotiations were protracted, they never approached the boiling point reached in 2005, when workers walked off the job for three days near Christmas despite a state law barring them from striking. The law doesn't apply to the LIRR workers, who are subject to a different set of federal laws and rules.
After the 2005 strike, Transit Workers Union Local 100 was fined about $3 million, workers were docked pay and then-union President Roger Toussaint was threatened with jail.
Under the proposed new contract, workers would get two years of retroactive raises of 1 percent a year, a 2 percent raise going back to this January and 2 percent raises in each of the next two years.
Workers would pay 2 percent of their base salaries for health insurance, up from 1.5 percent. But they would get some new benefits, including paid maternity and paternity leave, and better dental and optical coverage.
"The union believes that we've achieved many of the goals that we set out to achieve," President John Samuelsen said.
The union had written to Cuomo, a Democrat, on Wednesday, urging him to intervene in its negotiations with the MTA, a state agency. Cuomo staffers met with both sides Wednesday night, and the governor did Thursday.
The Straphangers' Campaign, a transit riders' advocacy group, commended the two sides for coming to terms but said it would reserve judgment on the agreement until there was a chance to study the details.