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TWU president storms out of MTA contract negotiations

John Samuelsen

John Samuelsen Credit: TWU president John Samuelsen speaks with reporters after leaving a contract negotiation (Marc Beja)

The union president representing 34,000 MTA employees stormed out of contract negotiations Thursday, accusing the transit agency of "disingenuous" and "bad-faith bargaining."

In a bit of political theater, John Samuelsen slammed the MTA over a Daily News report that outlined specific dollar amounts for some concessions the agency is requesting from the union, including increased contributions to health care and changes to overtime and vacation rules.

"We’re not willing to bargain with the MTA while they’re throwing things out to the media in an effort to disrupt things,” Samuelsen said during a news conference at New York City Transit’s headquarters, where the negotiations were scheduled to take place.

An MTA spokesman would not confirm details of Thursday’s meeting, saying, “We do not negotiate in the press.”

The union had previously posted a list of the MTA’s cost-cutting proposals on its website, though it said the cash-strapped agency had never told them how much each would save.

The MTA has said it can’t afford wage increases in the next three years unless the union agreed to concessions that covered their cost. MTA chief Joe Lhota offered the union a five-year plan on Sunday night, hours before the union’s contract expired, that kept wages the same for three years and offered 2% raises in the last two years, union sources previously said.

After walking out of the negotiations with city transit president Tom Prendergast — but absent Lhota — Samuelsen then went on to detail the union’s wage demands, which sources had previously disclosed to amNewYork.

He said the union wants “a wage increase that meets the cost of inflation” for city transit workers, adding the demand “allows us to keep afloat and keep our families going.”

Samuelsen said he planned to return to negotiations sometime next week. If both sides can’t make a deal, the contract will go to an arbitrator. The union hasn’t threatened to strike again, as it did in 2005.

Follow reporter Marc Beja on Twitter: @marc_beja

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