MTA seeks second mediation board in LIRR contract dispute


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority officially asked President Barack Obama to appoint a second Presidential Emergency Board on March 5 in resolving its longstanding contract impasse with Long Island Rail Road union workers, who have threatened to mount a labor strike that could now be pushed back to July.

After less than a day of negotiations in Washington D.C. on Feb. 27 — in which both MTA officials and LIRR labor chiefs offered new wage proposals without reaching a settlement — MTA President Helena Williams sent a letter to President Obama Wednesday, asking him to appoint a new board of mediators that will investigate both sides of the dispute and report their findings for a resolution.

“Although the recommendations in the first Emergency Board report… did not result in a resolution of the dispute,” Williams wrote in the letter, “we are hopeful that a second Board will assist the parties in achieving an agreement.”

As stated in the Federal Railway Labor Act, the second board will present a nonbinding recommendation to both MTA officials and LIRR unions, but if both sides fail to reach a deal, LIRR workers can legally strike as early as July 19.

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said in a statement Wednesday that the first board “ignored the enormous burden” placed on the agency’s budget in its recommendations, which initially called for a 17 percent wage increase over six years.

In order to meet those terms, Lisberg added, the MTA would have to raise fares as much as 12 percent or cut around $6 billion from its next capital budget.

“The MTA has cut almost $1 billion in recurring annual expenses,” he said. “The MTA hopes the second Presidential Emergency Board will take everyone else’s sacrifices into account as it begins this process.”

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