Home Transit LaborTWU Riders still pay as MTA, TWU square off

Riders still pay as MTA, TWU square off

by Benjamin Kabak

When the TWU’s contract expired on Monday, January 16, 2012, it seemed as though the MTA and its largest union would figure out a way to resolve the situation amicably. After all, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had appointed Joe Lhota to head up the MTA with an eye toward the contract negotiations, and both state and union officials were optimistic of a short stand-off.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. Here we are, 13 months later, with no end in sight. Joe Lhota didn’t move the ball too far, and the TWU rejected one of his more generous proposals last fall. Now, the former MTA head is involved in a campaign for the Republican mayoral candidacy, and the MTA has had no full-time Chairman/CEO for 50 days and counting. If Gov. Cuomo even knows there’s an absence to fill, I’d be a bit surprised.

Today, we learn from The Post that the two sides haven’t talked in three months. To make matters worse, the two sides can’t agree on why they haven’t spoken since November. Jennifer Fermino reports:

The 35,000-member strong Transport Workers Union Local 100 — which has been without a contract for over a year — claims the MTA has refused to negotiate since ex-chairman Joseph Lhota quit to run for mayor. “We have informed the MTA that we are fully prepared to continue bargaining,” the TWU said in a contract update to its members.” They responded that they won’t be ready to come back to the table until after Gov. Cuomo appoints, and the State Senate confirms, a new chair of the agency.”

It’s unclear when that will be. Cuomo has not named a successor to Lhota. But MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz called the TWU’s claims “pure fiction.” An agency official blamed said the TWU refused to schedule time to come to the table. The MTA has continued contract talks with other workers unions, the official said.

According to Fermino, the TWU had previously rejected an offer that would have guaranteed a four-percent raise spread out over five years but with other givebacks as well. A Metro-North union had rejected a similar contract, and in the full statement available on the union’s website, TWU officials claim rejecting such an offer strengthens their position. I’m not so sure it’s as cut and dry as that, but I know one thing: Riders are going to suffer.

As the union makes abundantly clear in its statement, it will not accept “big work-rule givebacks and huge out of pocket increases in the cost of medical benefits.” Additionally, as the union made clear, its recent focus on subway platform safety is a not-so-veiled attempt at promoting its own ends rather than true concern with public safety. In both cases — through higher wages and greater pension obligations or through slower, less effective and more costly train service — the public loses.

It’s hard to say what’s going to happen over the next few months. Andrew Cuomo will eventually appoint someone to head up the MTA, and that someone will eventually have to address the TWU’s contract. But even the best-case scenario probably means a late March or early April confirmation date for the next MTA CEO. Meanwhile, the concerns of the riders, as always, are being ignored, if not pushed aside entirely, and transit offerings will suffer because of it.

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BrooklynBus February 19, 2013 - 7:56 am

I’m a little confused. Didn’t Cuomo appoint Fernando Ferrer as interim Chairman/CEO or hasn’t he started yet?

Larry Littlefield February 19, 2013 - 9:36 am

What’s driving all this is that unless there is even more bias than usual in the arbitration process, the TWU will be facing a situation in which everyone involved in the MTA — payroll taxpayers, farepayers, managers, riders, managers — has sacrificed but them.

And other state workers already agreed to a less than generous contract in the recession, setting a pattern.

They need someone to blow the case in arbitration, to provide cover for additional fare increases and service cuts.

alen February 19, 2013 - 1:38 pm

i don’t know about every union plan, but the ones i’ve seen are only accepted by the worst doctors. probably because they negotiated low rates in order to keep the low out of pocket expenses.

the union people are idiots for this. i’ll gladly pay more for better care.

Larry Littlefield February 19, 2013 - 2:20 pm

NYC public employees including NYC Transit (and I was one so I know) can get two low-grade plans and pay nothing. Or get one of a wide set of other plans with an employee contribution.

So the unions have gotten a decent choice for their members.

The problem is the state allowed GHI and HIP to merge and to for profit, allowing them to jack up prices and gorge the city.

One could argue, of course, that the city is idiotic for not requiring the employees to use the public health system, the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation. Basically, the employees get a “voucher” while they provide the citizens with a monopoly. To quote Al Gore “why take money from public hospitals and give it to the private hospitals?”

pea-jay February 19, 2013 - 3:30 pm

So getting something straight here, no new contract simply means working off the terms of the previous one until a new one is signed at some point?

Which means no automatic raises or changes to work rules, correct?

Will not signing a new contract lower the relative cost of labor over time?

Larry Littlefield February 19, 2013 - 3:53 pm

Correct, same contract.

But things don’t exactly stay the same. Health insurance costs continue to rise. Meanwhile, while wages stay the same, they fall behind inflation. Of course that has been true of most people in recent years.

LLQBTT February 20, 2013 - 9:53 am

And any negotiated increases are typically retoractive to contract start date, so members see a 1x payment as a ‘true up’.

Alon Levy February 19, 2013 - 11:28 pm

Is there a breakdown of how many employees there are per job description? The Empire Center lets you query a specific description and tells you how many people there are working it, but doesn’t give you a closed list of jobs. So we know there are 3,600 train drivers, 3,000 conductors, 11,000 bus drivers, and (if I remember correctly) 2,600 station agents, but what else is there?

paulb February 20, 2013 - 8:10 am

I wish reporters would be a little more careful and write “working without a new contract.” The terms of the old contract are in effect. The workers have a contract. It annoys me that union members say this all the time and reporters don’t correct them. For workers who truly don’t have a contract, just talk to anybody working in the private sector.

Sharon February 20, 2013 - 6:51 pm

The transit workers are the only working folks union or non union who have not taken a hit in the last 5 years. 11% raises when others got And keeping work rules that allow thousands of unneeded positions. Just as a reference NYC teachers contract expired in 2007 and changes work rules in previous contracts . Lets compare transit already got 11% and want more teachers got non(salary step increases are not raises because teachers are underpaid as new teachers)
Flexibility of part time bus drivers are needed . Flexibility of opto service is needed


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