An LIRR train pulling into the Mineola station. (May 6,...

An LIRR train pulling into the Mineola station. (May 6, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Long Island Rail Road and an umbrella group representing 20 trade unions yesterday reached a project labor agreement, establishing wages and working conditions for seven construction projects totaling an estimated $463 million.

Under the agreement reached with the Buildings and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, the LIRR “guarantees” that contractors who successfully bid on these projects will hire unionized workers. The private-sector locals agreed not to strike.

The deal was immediately criticized as discriminating against nonunion contractors who said they are essentially shut out of the major public projects.

“Instead of allowing full competition between all construction firms, the state and the MTA are rigging the contracts so that favored union contractors get the jobs,” said Stephen Lefebvre, president of Associated Builders & Contractors, a national group representing predominantly nonunion contractors. “Unfortunately, the taxpayers lose.”

The seven projects the LIRR plans for the next five years are expected to bring 400 to 500 construction jobs to Long Island, officials said.

LIRR president Helena Williams estimated that the agreement, the first of its kind for the railroad, will bring labor costs down by $6.6 million over the five-year period.

The reduction comes from changes to the current contracts, she said at a news conference.

Provisions of the agreement include a 40-hour workweek and a cap on overtime at a rate of time and a half if employees work Saturdays. Williams and LIRR officials did not detail how the provisions compare with those in current contracts.

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