June 11, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
The arbitration process between United Transportation Union Local 1440 in Staten Island and the MTA finally wrapped up last month. The local, whose 200 members work for Staten Island Railway, have been working without a contract for almost six years. The arbitration process proved timely and expensive, but the union is hopeful of winning about 70 percent of demands.
Thomas Wilson, the local’s president, said that the union was willing to give up its very good medical plan via NYSHIP in order to receive parity in pay and benefits that TWU Local 100 members achieved in their previous contract.
But, according to Wilson, the MTA would not concede because it believes the 200-member union doesn’t deserve it. Apparently, the agency was willing to spend a lot of money on lawyers to prevent Local 1440 from getting back pay and other benefits.
Wilson said the union, thanks to the financial help provided by the local’s international union, was able to hire an expert in labor issues in the transportation industry, Thomas Roth of the Labor Bureau.
During arbitration, Roth argued that based on the MTA’s own figures, while it was claiming it couldn’t pay, it would have cost the agency $3.5 million over the lifetime of a contract had it signed with Local 1440.
But the MTA decided to spend about $3 million for two hours’ worth of testimony by its counsel, Proskauer Rose LLP, Roth reportedly said during the arbitration hearings.
A familiar story in labor circles in the City today, Wilson said that the agency hired two private companies to install cameras in each of the rail stations in the system’s network, but the project hasn’t been completed and has run over budget.
“It’s running over budget by tens of millions of dollars. Nobody is looking into this. The agency is constantly looking to contract out work that our members can do,” said Wilson.
Wilson said that the arbitrator is not mandated by the NYS Public Employment Relations Board to make a decision within a certain time frame, but he expects the arbitrator, Howard C. Edelman, to make his decision within the next three to six months. firstname.lastname@example.org