As the MTA’s economic comes to a head this week with Senate and Assembly votes due on a funding plan, the agency is searching for money every way it can. One of those options — eschewing pay raises for its workers — may just start some labor unrest at at time when the MTA can least afford it.
Pete Donohue reported on Friday that the MTA has informed union leaders it does not have the money raises this year. This is sure to go over poorly with a generally defensive union. Writes Donohue:
Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Elliot Sander has invited union officials to meetings next Tuesday to discuss the fiscal crisis that has the authority preparing to raise fares up to 30% and enact deep service cuts. Sources said Sander will announce the MTA can’t afford to pay even the meager 1.5% raises, totaling about $50 million, included in its austere budget approved in December.
The contract with the largest union – Transport Workers Union Local 100, representing bus and subway workers – expired in January. An arbitration panel is charged with dictating the new terms of a contract. Citing the opinions of labor experts, The News reported exclusively on Tuesday that a wage freeze was possible because arbitration centers on an employer’s ability to pay raises and provide improved benefits.
The MTA wouldn’t reveal if it intends to ask the arbitration panel to maintain the existing pay rates for approximately 36,000 bus and subway workers.
This is the unmentioned underbelly of the MTA funding crisis. Many union jobs will be lost either through attrition or flat-out firings; others won’t see raises; and the agency is under increasing political pressure to rein in the bureaucracy.
Right now, the MTA could really use the support of its union, but that may require union leaders to compromise publicly. A political move like that could be a dangerous one for a fiercely protective union.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to roll out some employment- and benefits-related stories concerning the MTA’s financial position and its workers. This effort by the MTA to limit pay raises may just be the tip of labor ice berg.