Policy: Labor

LIRR contract talks set to resume next week

Labor unions,Labor,New York

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — Negotiations aimed at averting a strike by workers at the nation's largest commuter railroad are scheduled to resume next week at a session scheduled by the National Mediation Board, union and management officials said Wednesday.

Unions representing 5,400 Long Island Rail Road workers have said they intend to strike unless an agreement is reached by July 20.

"We will be in attendance at the meeting and hope the MTA comes to their senses and considers our latest fair counter proposal," said Anthony Simon, the workers' chief negotiator. "We will do what it takes to hopefully prevent a strike as we have always have done."

The railroad's unions voted to authorize a strike after working without a contract since 2010. President Barack Obama appointed two emergency boards to help resolve the dispute but the MTA rejected both non-binding recommendations.

The emergency board's last proposal called for a 17 percent raise over six years while leaving work rules and pensions alone. The MTA last week offered a 17 percent wage increase over seven years. Its earlier offer called for an 11 percent hike over six years.

The MTA offer also seeks concessions including requiring current employees to contribute 2 percent of regular pay toward health care costs. Currently, LIRR workers don't contribute toward their health insurance.

A strike could affect 300,000 daily riders, most of whom travel in and out of New York City from Long Island.

"We are eager to get back to the bargaining table through the National Mediation Board on Tuesday," said Anita Miller, MTA director of labor relations. "We are hoping the unions will come prepared to engage in substantive negotiations on our latest fair and generous proposal, which meets the demands of current LIRR employees by offering 17 percent raises, including $22,000 in average back pay."

Also Wednesday, several state senators from Long Island urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intervene in the talks. A spokesman for the governor did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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