LIRR unions threaten to strike in March

An LIRR worker clears the platform at the An LIRR worker clears the platform at the Freeport train station. (Dec. 10, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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Long Island Rail Road union leaders Friday threatened to strike on March 21, saying the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has refused to negotiate after rejecting a settlement proposed by federal mediators last month.

"None of our unions want to strike," said Anthony Simon, general chairman of the United Transportation Union, the LIRR's largest labor organization.

Simon again called on the MTA to accept the compromise recommended by the Presidential Emergency Board.

"We already said we would accept the presidential findings, though they are not everything we want," he said.

The MTA could delay a strike by more than 5,000 of its 6,000 unionized employees until July with one call to the National Mediation Board, requesting a second Presidential Emergency Board, Simon said.

"We remain hopeful we can reach a negotiated settlement," MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said in an email. "We're not negotiating in the press."

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If LIRR workers strike, it would be the first organized work stoppage involving most of the railroad's unions since 1994.

On Jan. 15, the MTA detailed its criticisms of the compromise plan, saying they would result in higher fare and toll increases than already planned.

The mediators proposed raises averaging 2.83 percent over six years and increased health care contributions. They did not propose modifying pension plans or work rules.

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LIRR unions had sought annual raises averaging about 3.6 percent over six years, no changes to pensions, and to keep existing pension benefits and health care contributions.

The MTA wants workers to contribute more for pensions and health care, and a three-year wage freeze. Raises would have to be paid for by concessions, including relaxed work rules.

With Alfonso A. Castillo

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