It’s been a long time since we’ve heard any sort of update on the status of the contract negotiations between the MTA and TWU — a very long time in fact. With the MTA presenting numerous budget projections with the net-zero labor increase baked in and the TWU agitating against it at everyone opportunity, the two sides haven’t sat down with each other in over a year, and discussions before that were hardly fruitful. Jay Walder and the TWU didn’t get along, and Joe Lhota hardly made solving the contract conundrum a priority during his short time with the agency.
Now, though, as Pete Donohue reports, the two sides will resume meeting to work toward a deal. The TWU has been without a valid contract for 19 months, and they want to see a change. Donohue reports:
Transport Workers Union Local 100 will bolster its case for modest wage increases with a campaign stressing the hard work and sacrifices bus and subway workers made during and after the deluge. “Hurricane Sandy changed everything,” Local 100 President John Samuelsen said. “It’s only appropriate to review and rehash the incredible work New York City transit workers did in getting New York City back on its feet.”
… The stakes are high when the two sides sit down Sept. 30 — and not just for the approximately 36,000 transit workers. An MTA-TWU contract could set the pattern for talks between City Hall and other municipal unions if accompanied by two conditions: The pact is deemed favorable by organized labor, and Democrat Bill de Blasio, the mayoral candidate unions largely support, wins in November, said Lee Adler, senior associate at Cornell University’s Industrial Labor Relations School.
… The MTA insists it can’t afford raises without work-rule changes and efficiency measures to pay for them. The implication is that the authority, which already plans to raise fares again in 2015 by approximately 7.5%, might have to boost its prices even higher without a “net-zero” agreement. The MTA also wants to loosen contract language prohibiting it from eliminating conductor positions on the vast majority of subway trains, a move that would leave riders with just the motorman during emergencies until additional help arrives.
I’m not sure I see the logic in the TWU’s position with regards to the Sandy response. It’s true that workers were asked to go above and beyond for it, but it’s also true that overtime pay was part of the equation. Meanwhile, one telling statement from Tom Prendergast earlier this week provides some insight into management’s thinking. “The farepayers have done a lot, if not more than their fair share,” he said of the MTA’s ongoing struggles with their budget. “Management has done a lot; labor hasn’t.”
Tie wage increases into productivity gains. Allow for OPTO. Don’t allow for another three years of wage increases without something in return. That’s the current stalemate, and it’s not likely to break any time soon.