Nearly 100 LIRR workers facing layoffs

An LIRR train passes by as rail workers An LIRR train passes by as rail workers manually set rail switches after a fire disabled the regular system. (Aug. 26, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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The Long Island Rail Road is expected to lay off two dozen workers Friday, including some of the same men and women who helped restore service after an electrical fire damaged the LIRR's signal system late last month, union officials said.

Christopher Natale, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Rail Road Signalmen, which represents 550 LIRR employees, said 24 of his members will lose their jobs today. The LIRR expects to lay off another 74 employees next week.

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LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone said the motormen layoffs are linked directly to a reduction in funding for major construction and infrastructure renewal. "We only have two years of funding for this five-year construction plan. We hope to return the signalmen to work if we receive full funding for the capital program," he said.

The layoffs come as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority tries to close a $900-million budget gap, including through more service cuts that will take effect Monday and fare hikes in January.

LIRR officials have said they hope to be able to bring back some laid-off employees as soon as next year.

In a statement, Calderone said the lay offs are "painful" but "necessary" and come only after the LIRR made deep cuts to administrative overhead and overtime costs.Natale said that although the laid-off signalmen have the least seniority, some of them played key roles in repairing the damage caused by a fire at a Jamaica switching station on Aug. 23. Crews worked around the clock for nearly a week until full service was restored on Aug. 29.

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