June 26, 2014
By Beth Borzone
LIRR union leaders, outraged over MTA’s breach in negotiations protocol, are debating whether or not to cancel their meeting with MTA on Friday, citing that the MTA is not serious about negotiating a settlement and instead is attempting to force the union to strike.
According to a union press release, MTA contacted the union stating that they wanted to meet to present a new settlement proposal. That meeting was scheduled for Friday, June 27th.
However, rather than presenting the proposal to the union privately in the scheduled meeting as is the usual protocol in negotiations, the MTA went public with it’s proposal first at a citywide press conference.
“Instead of sitting down with the only people who can make a deal, MTA chose the route of cheap politicalgrandstanding,” said Anthony Simon, General Chairman of the union coalition SMART/Transportation Division.
Furthermore, the MTA purposely made public a proposal that it knew the union could not possibly accept by introducing a permanent two-tier system that the union had already made clear in prior meetings was totally unacceptable and off the negotiation table, according to the press release.
While on the surface the MTA proposed 17% retroactive wage increase might seem reasonable, the increase would come at the expense of newer and younger employees who would have to pay more into their health care and pensions and take longer to move up the pay scale, thus, upsetting the union leaders. The MTA also added a year to the contract. The PEB board recommended the 17% retroactive wage increase over six years, but the MTA proposal made it a seven year deal which means in the seventh year the workers would get a 0% increase.
According to the new pay scale in MTA’s latest proposal, a new hire would take ten years to earn what a current employee earned in five years, thus creating a two tier wage system, Dean DeVita, Secretary-Treasurer, of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/Service Employees International Union (NCFO) said.
“This was a poor attempt to divide and conquer the members and the eight unions and they (MTA) failed miserably,” said Simon.
LIRR employees were not happy when they read the details in the press, according to DeVita, “Now that it’s out there, the employees are really upset,” DeVita said.
For the MTA to make this proposal after months of claiming that it could not afford to give raises also damages its credibility with union officials.
“A few months ago MTA claimed it couldn’t afford more than net zeroes without raising fares by 12%, Simon said, “Then, after two Presidential Emergency Boards rejected that claim as phony, MTA proclaimed that it couldn’t afford the PEB’s recommendations without slashing its capital budget. Now we hear that MTA wants to spend more money during the life of the contract than the unions are asking for, in return for savings that wouldn’t be realized for decades.”
DeVita said that he is so frustrated with the MTA that he is ready to strike.
“It’s not about me, DeVita said, “It’s about these people. Long Island is one of the most expensive places in America and the cost of living keeps going up. These people need wage increases. My guys are working class guys and they need this.”