With less than two weeks to go before a potentially crippling Long Island Rail Road strike, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and eight LIRR unions were set to return to the bargaining table once again this week to discuss contract negotiations. The National Mediation Board, a three-member, quasi-governmental agency, scheduled a meeting between the MTA and union officials on Tuesday in Manhattan.
The MTA announced on July 2 that it welcomed the NMB’s involvement, even though two federal mediation panels working at the board’s behest have rejected the agency’s contract proposals. “We are hoping the unions will come prepared to engage in substantive negotiations on our latest fair and generous proposal,” said Anita Miller, the MTA’s director of labor relations.
The MTA and the LIRR unions reached no compromise after a 90-minute meeting on June 27. The MTA has offered LIRR employees a 17 percent raise over seven years, but union officials have insisted on 17 percent over six years. The MTA also wants new employees to contribute 4 percent of the cost of their health care coverage, and current employees to contribute 2.5 percent.
State senators Jack Martins (R-Mineola), Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) have urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to get involved in the negotiations in order to avert a potential strike on July 20, which would leave 325,000 daily commuters without service. “We need to have the full force of the executive branch brought to bear so that there is a real negotiation,” Hannon said last week.
Cuomo said he is hoping for a “fair resolution” to the impasse, but did not say whether he intends to get involved in the contract talks.