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Transit authority, workers tentatively agree on contract

MTA workers create a continuous section welded rail

MTA workers create a continuous section welded rail at the Avenue M Subway Station in Brooklyn on May 7, 2018. Credit: Charles Eckert

The MTA has reached a tentative agreement with its largest union for a new contract that would give 37,000 subway and bus workers annual raises of about 2.3% over four years, the agency said Thursday.

The contract also would more equally distribute overtime opportunities.

If ratified by union members and approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board, the agreement would bring to a close a particularly contentious dispute between MTA management and its largest union, and could lay the groundwork for a deal with other Long Island Rail Road unions.

“This contract reflects the hard work of thousands of transit employees who have helped us reach the highest on-time subway performance in more than half a decade, while providing a fair deal for taxpayers and our more than 8 million daily customers,” MTA chairman Patrick Foye said in a statement. “The tentative agreement is responsive to the financial challenges we face and addresses important issues such as accessibility, overtime and health care costs.”

In a statement Wednesday night, TWU Local 100 president Tony Utano said he believes his members will ratify the deal “in overwhelming fashion.”

“We achieved the framework for settlement over the weekend, and after several days of intense bargaining, arrived at the tentative agreement" Wednesday, Utano said.

The raises for workers would grow from 2% this year to 2.75% in 2022 — averaging out at about 2.3% annually. The MTA said a 1% percent increase in pay costs the agency about $36 million.

The raises would be offset in part by $44 million in savings from health benefit changes — including provisions to encourage more use of primary and urgent care providers instead of emergency room visits — and from increased productivity from workers. The deal calls for union employees to be available for work 1 1/2 days more than now.

The deal also works toward the goal of ensuring “that opportunities for overtime are equally available to eligible employees and that overtime is efficiently allocated,” according to the MTA. Some MTA leaders have raised concerns about senior workers keeping overtime assignments to themselves.

Employee availability and overtime distribution were expected to be key sticking points in the MTA’s negotiations with LIRR unions, whose contracts came up for renewal in April.

The LIRR’s unions are seeking 5% annual raises for the next three years, according to filed documents.

The railroad's top union leader, Anthony Simon, on Thursday congratulated the TWU for reaching a deal, noting that "labor peace is essential."

Unlike bus and subway workers, LIRR’s unions are allowed by federal law to go on strike. The last major LIRR contract dispute brought the nation's largest commuter railroad to the brink of a strike in 2014, before Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo brokered an 11th-hour settlement.

"Our negotiations on Long Island are underway, and while there are different challenges . . . we will work around the clock to achieve a fair deal for LIRR employees as well," said Simon, general chairman of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, the LIRR's largest union.

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