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MTA Board Approves New Contract for Transit Workers, LIRR Strike Looms

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TWC News: MTA Board Approves New Contract for Transit Workers, LIRR Strike Looms
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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board unanimously approved a new contract with bus and subway workers, but there's labor unrest on another front , which could impact city residents as soon as this summer. NY1 Transit Reporter Jose Martinez filed the following report.

City transit workers have made peace with Metropolitan Transportation Authority brass and will be getting 8 percent raises over five years.

But another labor battle is brewing with more than 5,000 Long Island Rail Road employees, who could legally go on strike in July.

That's very much in play after a federal mediation panel this week supported the workers' push for a 17 percent raise over 6 years, up from the MTA's offer of 11 percent.

"What is astonishing to us is that in the recommendation there was little credence given to what has traditionally been a pattern-setter, which is the Transport Workers Union,” said MTA CEO Thomas Prendergast. “And so that's upsetting to us."

And to city straphangers on already-crowded subway lines like the 7, where commuter railroad refugees could make for a tighter squeeze.

"Basically unbearable, because that means all of the riders are going to come to this line,” said one 7 train rider.

"I can't even imagine. It would be beyond chaos,” said another.

But for an agency that likes to say it prepares for possible snowstorms even in July, a summer strike presents another type of challenge.

The MTA has already started accepting proposals from bus companies that would provide service to Long Island Rail Road riders in case of a strike. That's a measure blasted by some board members as provoking a strike, but one that the MTA says is absolutely necessary.

"We believe it's prudent to make sure we have plans in place,” said Prendergast.

LIRR riders who use the railroad at its 25 stations in the city say they hope those plans won't be put into action.

"If there's a strike come July, then that would be very difficult for some of the commuters, because they use it to get to go work every day and some of them use it to see their families,” said one LIRR rider.

Union leaders and MTA brass say they'll work together to keep the country's busiest commuter railroad rolling. But paying for any raises will take at least a billion dollar bite out of the MTA's fund that pays for system upkeep.

The clock's ticking toward July.

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