Editorial: New hope, for now, in LIRR impasse

LIRR customers board a train at Penn Station

LIRR customers board a train at Penn Station on Dec. 20, 2013. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

advertisement | advertise on newsday

With time running short to avert a crippling Long Island Rail Road strike, it's encouraging that both sides in the standoff have accepted the National Mediation Board's invitation to talk.

It's time to stop the chest-thumping and get serious about finding a deal on pay and work rules. Nobody wins if a strike -- perhaps as early as March 21 -- stops the railroad in its tracks. The people who buy 335,000 rides daily would be the biggest losers.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The LIRR's 6,000 unionized workers have been without a contract since June 2010. After a weeklong hearing in December, a panel of mediators appointed by President Barack Obama recommended raises averaging 2.83 percent a year for six years. The LIRR's largest labor organization, the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union-United Transportation Union, accepted the deal. MTA officials did not. They want work rule concessions to help cover the cost of pay hikes.

The Feb. 27-28 meeting with the National Mediation Board, an agency formed under the Federal Railway Act, will be the first face-to-face session since December. If no deal is reached, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority or Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo could ask Obama to appoint a second board of mediators. That would put off a strike until at least July. But without more flexibility by all concerned, that would merely delay the inevitable.

Union and MTA officials both say they want a negotiated settlement. They need to find that sweet spot to keep the trains running.


Newsday.com now uses Facebook for our comment boards. Please read our guidelines and connect your Facebook account to comment.

You also may be interested in: