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Queens Chronicle

LIRR contract accord reached; strike averted

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Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:16 am, Thu Jul 24, 2014.

The MTA and Long Island Rail Road employee unions have reached a contract agreement, averting a strike that had been set to begin at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Gov. Cuomo, agency Chairman Thomas Prendergast and labor leaders announced today.

"This is a compromise by both parties," Cuomo said a little before 1:30 p.m. at a press conference broadcast over the Internet. "Compromise by definition means that neither side gets everything that they wanted to get, but it means that we reached agreement and can move forward."

Also speaking at the announcement were Prendergast and Anthony Simon of the United Transportation Union.

As the press conference went on, the governor began listing some details of the new contract, which he said will last for six and a half years.

Gov. Cuomo, flanked by Simon and Prendergast, said movement made through Wednesday night into Thursday morning resulted in some classic compromises.

Cuomo referenced the 17-percent pay increase, but none of the three discussed the exact terms.

The governor did say that all employees would contribute to healthcare savings, and future employees would be impacted by some of the changes.

“There were issues of wage progression, healthcare and pension,” Cuomo said. “The question was ‘how do you pay for it?’ Raise fares? No. Cut the capital improvement program? No.”

Simon said that would not be done until union leadership has the opportunity to discuss details with the 5,400 workers represented by eight unions.

He did say the unions’ rank-and-file could seal the deal by Aug. 15.

“This is a ratifiable contract,” he said.

Prendergast said an agreement, which all three men signed, would be presented to the MTA board in September.

Prendergast said the MTA had every intention of doing well by employees he said are hard-working and often do dangerous jobs.

“This protects them as well as the fiscal stability of the MTA,” he said.

Cuomo also defended his decision to not intervene sooner.

“I have experience in labor negotiations; I’m familiar with the territory,” he said. “But if I intervened in every labor dispute, I’d be a full-time labor negotiator. The question is when is it appropriate and necessary ... Long Island is unique. Without the Long Island Rail Road, there are not a lot of other options. A strike would have cost not only tens of millions of dollars a day, it would jeopardize safety.”

City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), chairman of the Transportation Committee, issued a statement at 1:58 p.m. saying:

"On behalf of the residents across this great city who would have faced tremendous hardship in the event of a strike, I am relieved and pleased by today's announcement of a deal. Earlier today, I joined city elected officials to point out just how devastating this strike could be and the necessity for this deal to be reached. Now, with the leadership of our governor, Andrew Cuomo, MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast and the strong negotiators on the side of the LIRR workers, we can rest assured that life will continue without the major interruptions we feared. This is welcome news and will ensure that workers are compensated at appropriate levels and that we can avoid a similar situation over the coming years. The spirit of collaboration has won the day and I know New Yorkers from the 5 boroughs to Montauk are grateful for this partnership."

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