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Contract talks between MTA and employee union far from over

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Marathon weekend negotiations between the MTA and its largest workers union were unable to bring both sides any closer to reach an agreement, sources with knowledge of the talks said Monday, adding that pay raises remain the sticking point for both sides. The union's contract expired Monday morning.

MTA chief Joe Lhota has stuck to the agency's position that it cannot afford to pay any more for wages in the next three years, offering a five-year contract similar to those made between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state's largest public employee unions, sources said Monday. Lhota's five-year offer calls for pay to remain the same for the next three years, and to increase by 2% in the fourth and fifth years.

The cash-strapped MTA maintains it can only offer "net-zero" increases, which would require concessions from workers to cover the costs of larger wages.

But Transport Workers Union president John Samuelsen rejected the offer, asking for increases that match inflation rates.

Cuomo told reporters in Albany on Monday that he trusts Lhota, though he said he hopes the TWU accepts contracts similar to the CSEA and Public Employees Federation, which had no wage increases for three years.

In a news conference with reporters in Albany on Monday, Cuomo called Lhota "very capable," saying "I'll leave it to him" to make a deal with the TWU.

However Cuomo did encourage the TWU to acknowledge the "terrible financial problem in this state" and take deals similar to the other public employee unions.

"They are public servants and they stepped up to the plate and they did the right thing," Cuomo said of CSEA and PEF. "I think it is a powerful message and other unions should look at it and learn from it."

The two sides are expected to resume talks Wednesday.

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