A LIRR train stops at Jamaica station. (May 9, 2011)

A LIRR train stops at Jamaica station. (May 9, 2011) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Long Island Rail Road has reached an agreement with the Transportation Communications Union that will prevent planned ticket-window closures or cutbacks at 18 stations, railroad and union officials said.

Railroad president Helena Williams said the agreement yielded $1.3 million in savings.

The short-term pact, which expires in March, saves 17 ticket clerks' jobs and keeps five stations' ticket windows open two days a week rather than having complete closures at those locations. The deal also preserves two heavy-duty cleaning crews slated for elimination, officials said.

The agreement is expected to be discussed at Monday's meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Long Island Committee.

The reductions, part of across-the-board budget cuts to reduce a massive budget deficit, had been scheduled for this spring but were postponed as the union and railroad neared a deal to save the jobs, said William DeCarlo, assistant national representative for the Transportation Communications Union.

"We all know the current environment, the economy and everybody's budget woes," he said. "Our first goal is to keep as many members as we can employed."

The union, which represents ticket clerks, cleaning staff and clerical workers, agreed, after negotiation, to give up two of 12 holidays and waived several work rules, allowing LIRR managers more flexibility in assigning shifts and tasks and thereby reducing overtime costs.

"Nobody was looking to send more people to unemployment," Williams said. "It translated to a direct benefit to the customers. They're the first face that the customer sees." The railroad hopes to extend the agreement, she said.

The LIRR, which has seen successive rounds of painful cuts, closed ticket windows at 20 stations -- including Cedarhurst, Farmingdale and Northport -- in 2009.

The railroad's 2011 financial plan called for ticket-window closures at five stations: Amityville, Lynbrook, Massapequa Park and Wantagh on the Island, and Flushing Main Street in Queens. Ticket windows at 13 stations also were slated for reductions in hours or in the number of windows open.

The railroad, in addition, had planned to eliminate two four-person cleaning crews that use power washers at stations.

Because of the newly relaxed work rules, the railroad can assign those workers to other tasks, such as snow removal, when winter weather prevents them from using the power washers, Williams said.The agreement also will allow the railroad to offer weekend ticket hours better suited to beachgoers at the Long Beach station, she said.

The LIRR now plans to change ticket-window service at seven stations starting July 20. Service at five stations will be reduced to two days a week, Saturday service in Bayside will be eliminated, and the Long Beach ticket window will be open until 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

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