It was all smiles today at the end of rigorous negotiations between union leaders and chairman of the Long Island Rail Road, the US busiest commuter rail line. The non-compromising stance from both sides had led to a looming strike that would have commenced on Sunday morning following breakdown at earlier meetings.
The LIRR, which caters for moving about 300,000 New York commuters on daily basis had been at loggerheads with the workers who insisted on getting pay raises. The deal which provides employees with a 17% raises over 78 month period also required them for the first time to contribute to health care costs. Future employees are expected to contribute to their pension for the first 15 years of their employment, while current workers still contribute for 10 years as obtained presently.
Governor Andrew Cuomo who intervened during the deadlock and bring considerable pressures on both sides reportedly said that “The agreement we have reached today is fair to all parties. It recognizes the many contributions of the LIRR’s hardworking employees, while also maintaining the fiscal integrity of the MTA.”
Realizing that the governor plays a major role in bringing about the deal, spokesman of the LIRR’s workers coalition, Anthony Simon said “Thanks to the great leadership of Gov. Cuomo and the membership, we were able to come to an agreement that is definitely ratifiable and fair.” According to him, the membership will ratify the deal by the middle of August. On their part, the MTA board will formally vote on the contract in September.
Both sides of the divide ended up compromising for the deal to go through. While the workers get a raise as demanded, they give in on contribution to health costs, and future employees’ pension arrangement. Aside those, a couple of concessions were reached where both sides chip in towards a successful resolution.
To assure commuters who fear a fare hike, the chairman, MTA, Tom Prendergast said that “This deal puts no additional pressure on the fares.” LIRR’s workforce of 5,400 employees comprises of mechanics, electricians, conductors, track-workers and others who have been without a contract for four years.
The looming strike if allowed to happen would have cost New York an estimated loss of about $50 million per day in economic activity, according to state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli.