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LIRR workers: Cut administrative costs, not service

Hundreds of LIRR employees gathered at United Transportation

Hundreds of LIRR employees gathered at United Transportation Union offices Friday morning along with Rep. Tim Bishop, Peter King, and Steve Israel to protest the MTA's planned service cuts, including the LIRR. (February 12, 2010) Photo Credit: Photo by Danielle Finkelstein

The MTA should trim administrative costs before enacting its proposed service cuts and possible layoffs, about 300 Long Island Rail Road union workers said at a Babylon rally on Friday.

The rally, attended by several labor and elected leaders, was in response to measures recently taken by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to fill an ever-widening budget deficit. They include almost completely eliminating LIRR service between Ronkonkoma and Greenport, running fewer trains and cutting the number of cars on some trains.

MTA chairman Jay Walder also has said he anticipates having to lay off labor members.

Protesters said that before the MTA looks to lay off any union employees, it should look to cut what they called administrative waste, an oversized management staff and redundant office jobs.

United Transportation Union general chairman Anthony Simon, who organized the rally outside the union's offices, said labor's invaluable role in the MTA was on display during Wednesday's snowstorm, when the LIRR avoided service suspensions, breakdowns and widespread delays. "It was not the railroad brass that was out there pushing the snow and moving the trains," Simon said.

In a statement, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the agency "is taking aggressive actions to reduce administrative costs, including reducing nonunion payroll expenses by 10 percent." But, he added, "there is no way to address a budget gap of this magnitude" without service cuts.

During the rally, locomotive engineer Mike Mistretta held a sign that read "Cut the fat, not the meat, MTA."

"We're out there every day, working hard in all sorts of weather and these guys upstairs sit behind a desk," said Mistretta, 33, of Medford. "We run the railroad, not management."

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