Home Transit LaborTWU Avoiding pay raises; raising the spectre of labor unrest

Avoiding pay raises; raising the spectre of labor unrest

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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Rhywun April 27, 2009 - 1:21 pm

Oh boy… things could get ugly pretty easily. Another strike, anyone?

Fairness April 27, 2009 - 1:21 pm

Ben I hope when you “roll out” these stories in the coming weeks about the MTA you include ALL of the many unions. Not just bashing the TWU like you usually do. That is only one of many unions that the MTA deals with and it represents the lowest paid workers in the entire MTA.

The unions in the LIRR and MNR are alot stronger and better taken care of than TWU a very weak union for it’s size.

TWU is the only large union in the city that has it’s members paying towards there medical. TWU is the only of the MTA unions that has taken a zero in a contract over the last 15 years.

grrrumpy miner April 28, 2009 - 4:23 am

Rhyrun…..honestly,I don’t want to go on strike again.It destroyed a lot of people including me.However I would accept Full zeros across the board in exchange for the 20/50 plan so those with age and years can retire….or let this ongoing contract arbitration wait for at least 3 years so that when money is replenished and the economy is back to snuff….than,we shot for the 4/4/4/4 we should get.Oh that retropay could be a new car or a down payment on a house.

Max Katz April 28, 2009 - 6:45 am

Fairness, when 1 out of every 6 dollars in this country is going to medical expenses, “TWU is the only large union in the city that has it’s members paying towards there medical” doesn’t sound particularly fair. Companies all over the country are placing more of the burden of healthcare on employees. You’re not being singled out.

“Economic downturn” and “recession” and “depression” have been thrown all over the news over the last year. Does everyone deserve a raise and improved benefits? Honestly? Can labor demand what management can’t afford?

When it’s time to negotiate, MTA should bring that news footage to the track inspector who clocks in and spends the day at a bar to the bargaining table. They need to bring their books and say “OK unions- find me the money in this book and we’ll work it out”.

nomarko September 6, 2009 - 5:45 am

Hey everyone, it’s Labor Day! I’m happy with my extra day off, and I am planning to doing something fun that will probably involve a moto trip and seeing something new in Gardena I haven’t seen yet.
You write something new on this Monday at the labor day? … hAppy bLogGINg!


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