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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, December 28, 2005

TWU-MTA have tenative deal

Looking over the contract

Transit Workers and M.T.A. Reach a Tentative Deal

Published: December 28, 2005

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the transit workers' union announced a settlement yesterday in which the authority abandoned its demand for concessions on pensions and the union agreed to have all workers pay a portion of their health insurance premiums.

Last night the executive board of the union, Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, voted 37 to 4 to approve the tentative 37-month contract. One member abstained. The city's 33,700 subway and bus workers are expected to vote on the agreement early next month; some are expected to oppose it out of unhappiness over having to pay toward health premiums for the first time.

The agreement calls for transit workers to pay 1.5 percent of their wages toward the premiums, cutting into the raises they receive. That comes on top of the fines of slightly more than $1,000 that most transit workers face for participating in last week's illegal transit strike.

The settlement calls for raises of 3 percent in the deal's first year, 4 percent in the second year and 3.5 percent in the third year. The subway and bus workers' current base pay averages $47,000 a year, and with overtime, their average yearly earnings total $55,000.

"These were huge items for our membership," said Marvin W. Holland, a station cleaner and board member who voted to approve the contract. "If it took a strike to get it, so be it. I think this is an overwhelming success."

The settlement is the latest chapter in a labor dispute that led to New York City's first transit shutdown in 25 years, one that prompted bitter public exchanges between political and union leaders, while hurting the city's economy.

Bowing to the authority's wishes, the union agreed to a 37-month contract instead of a 36-month contract, making the expiration date Jan. 15, 2009, rather than Dec. 15, 2008. That move will no doubt please Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the city's retailers, because it removes the risk of a paralyzing strike at the peak of the holiday shopping season.

Last Thursday, the authority persuaded the union to end a 60-hour strike by signaling that it would drop its demand for future workers to contribute more toward their pensions - the issue that had caused the talks to fall apart. In exchange, the union indicated that it would agree to the concession on health care to help the authority bring its soaring benefits costs under control. The agreement on health premiums will save the authority nearly $32 million a year.

George Perlstein, a subway road-car inspector and the sole board member who abstained, said the health care contribution would set a precedent for further increases. "The health care contribution is going to be absolutely disastrous in the future," he said. "Instead of holding our ground, we're acquiescing to the anti-labor ideology of Bloomberg, Pataki and the Republican agenda."

Remember, this wasn't a deal that the TWU could accept on their own. Other unions were consulted. BUT, reality is that as long as health care costs are not part of a national taxpayer supported system, workers will have to contribute, even if they haven't in the past. The MTA isn't lying about this.

While there is no way to know how the membership will vote, stopping the two-tier pension plan is a major victory, ask the PBA.

And I will say again that there was no need for this strike. The MTA came up with fair raises, and work rule concessions which the union would have agreed to weeks ago, And their concession on health care is no small deal, but it was going to come at some point, and given the MTA, they would have asked for much more in terms of a contribution. Health care costs keep rising, which you cannot blame on the MTA.

However, considering that this is the best salary hike in a decade for the union, most people will see the money and probably vote for it. Notice how they went from 5.5 percent to 9 percent to 11.5 percent. So I guess they did have some money.

posted by Steve @ 1:36:00 AM

1:36:00 AM

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