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LIRR to eliminate 150 jobs as result of MTA cuts

File photo: An LIRR train prepares to leave

File photo: An LIRR train prepares to leave the station in Mineola. (Feb. 23, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

The Long Island Rail Road will eliminate about 90 administrative jobs and some 60 other workers, mostly engineers and conductors, as a result of service cuts and sweeping administrative staff reductions passed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in December, LIRR president Helena Williams said Tuesday.

While the service cuts will necessitate the layoffs of train crew members, Williams said she would try to implement a mandated 15 percent administrative payroll reduction through buyouts before issuing more pink slips.

LIRR officials said the cuts are just the first wave, with more to come as the MTA struggles to regain financial footing after addressing a $383-million deficit in December, only to learn that it now faces another $378-million drop in tax revenue.

The elimination of administrative positions at the LIRR could affect both nonunion and union members, including clerical staff, said Art Maratea, spokesman for the Transportation Communications International Union, which represents the LIRR's ticket agents and clerks.

The cash-strapped MTA, which employs about 70,000 people, announced Tuesday that it aims to save about $50 million by eliminating some 1,100 staff across all MTA agencies. The cuts include more than 600 administrative staff and as many as 500 subway station agents.

"My sense is that there will be additional staff reductions from consolidations that the MTA will be focused on," said Williams, who said she will turn to layoffs if buyouts don't yield enough savings. The LIRR has about 630 administrative positions.

"I'm always concerned about customers," she said. "We want to make sure that we continue to provide safe, secure, reliable train service."

The MTA board approved the administrative trims and service cuts in December when it slashed its 2010 budget to address the $383-million budget gap. Proposed cuts to rail service included elimination of service from Ronkonkoma to Greenport except for summer weekends and weekend service on the West Hempstead Branch.

Maratea said unions representing MTA workers will protest the layoffs in the coming weeks at public hearings on planned service cuts. Hearings on Long Island will be held Monday in Carle Place and March 8 in Riverhead.

In a statement, MTA chairman and chief executive Jay Walder called the layoffs "extremely painful" and said they are the beginning of "a comprehensive overhaul of how the MTA does business," including reductions in overtime, the consolidation of redundant functions and negotiations with suppliers to lower costs.

"We will not stop until I can say that every dollar the MTA receives is spent wisely," he said.

The transportation authority, which last year hiked fares to help offset its deficit, has been beset by state funding cuts, plummeting tax revenues and declining ridership.

Surcharges on real estate transactions, for example, provided $1.6 billion in revenue for the MTA in 2007 but fell to just $392 million last year.

"The MTA has taken a $1.2-billion hit in this one area alone," MTA Finance Committee chairman Andrew Saul said in a committee meeting Monday.

Gov. David A. Paterson proposed this month to bulk up lagging payroll tax revenueby doubling the percentage that New York City businesses are required to pay, while lowering the same tax for suburban firms.



Where the cuts will come



Administrative staff members across MTA agencies, 600

NYC Transit station agents, 500


LIRR: Must cut about 90 administrative positions through buyouts and, if necessary, layoffs. In separate service cuts, about 60 other workers, mostly conductors and engineers, will lose their jobs.




: The MTA board in December approved a 15 percent cut in the administrative payroll and service cuts to address a $383-million budget gap.



What's next

: Officials say more staff cuts are on the way because the MTA faces another $378-million shortfall in tax revenue. - JENNIFER MALONEY



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