Home Transit LaborTWU MTA pleads poverty in TWU arb appeal

MTA pleads poverty in TWU arb appeal

by Benjamin Kabak

As the MTA attempts to avoid an arbitration ruling that guaranteed TWU workers 11 percent raises over the next three years, the agency has plead poverty in its court filings. In its motion to overturn the arbitration decision, filed Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, the transportation authority said it does not have the money to pay its workers and adequately operate its trains at the same time.

For its legal claim, the MTA is alleging that the arbitration panel made egregious fiscal mistakes in evaluating the MTA’s ability to pay the raise. The agency has also threatened to scale back service and raise fares to maker labor ends meet. Pete Donohue has more:

In legal papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, transit officials also say the arbitration panel that crafted the contract last month made critical blunders when evaluating the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s finances.

In one instance, the panel said the MTA has a $75 million rainy-day fund, which the authority says has been drained. “The MTA simply does not have the money to pay for the ramped-up, out-of-scale unbudgeted costs…without foisting upon the public some very unpleasant choices regarding fares, service levels…and maintenance of the system,” the MTA argues.

While I haven’t yet secured the filings, The Post has more:

The suit said the raises would waste millions of dollars of a new payroll tax — 34 cents of every $100 of a business’ income — on “out-of-scale compensation increases for employees who, by all accounts, already are well paid.”

… [Arbitrator John] Zuccotti and [TWU President Roger] Toussaint both agreed the MTA can take money from its capital programs — the same budget that funds the Second Avenue Subway, the purchase of new buses and station rehabilitation — to pay the raises.

I certainly don’t agree that the MTA should be removing capital funds to cover labor costs. That represents a backwards investment in moving transit in New York City forward.

No matter the outcome though this appeal could turn labor relations toward an acrimonious stalemate. The case is set to be heard on Tuesday, and both the MTA and TWU have a lot at stake.

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6 comments

AlexB September 10, 2009 - 4:57 pm

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a guaranteed 11% raise in three years, so long as you didn’t get fired? I’m not saying it’s a huge amount, but to have it promised to you, assuming you don’t terribly mess up, that’s a nice deal.

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Alon Levy September 10, 2009 - 5:30 pm

It would. But it would be even nicer to know that all the other unions are willing to accept wage restraint in times of recession, as the German unions have, so that the city does not have to scramble for cash until it actually has money.

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Januz September 11, 2009 - 5:51 am

I think the idea of cancelling the 2nd Ave Subway (Another huge pip dream), and giving the money to workers is an outstanding idea. The MTA constantly wastes money on just about everything they do (Except Yankee Stadium Station on Metro-North), so why rip up 2nd Ave (Putting businesses out of work (Like they did at the Fulton St Station)), when you can help working New Yorkers, both MTA workers and small businesses on 2nd Ave? It makes sense.

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Alon Levy September 12, 2009 - 7:15 pm

Why rip up 2nd Avenue? For the same reason they ripped up Broadway in 1900: it serves a real transportation need.

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Nathanael September 17, 2009 - 9:17 pm

What provision of law or contract requires the MTA to accept arbitration or even to negotiate a contract with this absurdist union?

Since the TWU appears to have no interest in having a functional subway system, it sounds like it’s past time to find a different union to negotiate with.

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Another politician criticizes MTA for something they can’t control « On Transport January 6, 2010 - 11:06 am

[…] the 11.3% raise to TWU workers, the MTA appealed the decision, citing among other things that the raise was unreasonable when the agency is in dire fiscal straits. The MTA did everything they could to stop this raise, but citing other city agencies receiving […]

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