Home Transit LaborTWU Report: MTA, TWU nearing contract, with raises

Report: MTA, TWU nearing contract, with raises

by Benjamin Kabak

After over two years of negotiating (or barely negotiating) with various Chairmen, the MTA and TWU Local 100, its largest union, are nearing agreement on a contract, the Daily News reports today. According to Pete Donohue and Ginger Adams Otis, the new agreement grants raises to MTA workers, but it’s unclear if the MTA has moved away from the net-zero position or has wrested other concessions from the union.

Here’s the News’ take. Details are, so far, sparse:

The MTA and the union representing subway and bus workers in the city are close to reaching an agreement on a new contract that would grant workers an 8% raise over five years, according to sources familiar with the talks. Under the package now on the table, new hires would have to work for five years before reaching the top pay rate, an increase of two years, and worker contributions to health care costs would rise to 2% of base pay, from 1.5%, the sources said.

The progress in negotiations appeared to signal a break in the two-year contract stalemate, but sources said, however, that significant issues need to be overcome to produce a deal. The stumbling blocks led Transport Workers Local 100 President John Samuelsen to ask Gov. Cuomo in a letter late Tuesday to intervene and help seal the deal for the 34,000 transit workers in the union.“Absent your intervention, I do not see a path to resolving a number of difficult issues,” Samuelsen wrote to Cuomo.

Steve Greenhouse of The Times adds more color on the union’s request that Cuomo intervene to see these negotiations through. TWU officials say that finalizing their contract will give the MTA a baseline for their contentious negotiations with the LIRR and will help Cuomo avert a costly railroad strike set to begin four months before Election Day. I worry that such an impetus for a contract involves putting the short-term election cart before the long-term horse of the MTA’s fiscal stability. Already, the governor has shown that he is more than willing to sacrifice MTA finances for electoral gains.

Still, until we know the details and understand what, if any, concessions the MTA secured, it’s too early to speculate both on how this deal will impact the MTA’s ledger sheet and what this means for future fare hikes. Still, with promised raises of eight percent over five years, I’m wary. Already, the MTA has scaled back next year’s fare hikes from around eight percent to four percent, and funds are tight. The riders may have to pay more as, in flush times, everyone else is getting more of the economic pie.

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Bolwerk April 17, 2014 - 11:15 am

Well, going by that blockquote, they wrestled some multi-million dollar concessions.

Really the idea of the TWU getting a small raise doesn’t seem so offensive. The 8% over the next five years is in line with the relatively low inflation of the past 2010-2014 5-year block period (~7.6% from March 2010 as a base to March 2014). If this includes substantial work rule improvements, it would be a coup for reform. Current monetary policy continuing is the safe assumption.

But shit, it’s the railroads, especially the LIRR, that seems to need some serious reform.

Benjamin Kabak April 17, 2014 - 11:17 am

I’m all for raises if work-rule concessions come with it. It’s unreasonable to expect people to work for a decade without a bump in salary, but it’s also not unreasonable to modernize the work rules.

Bolwerk April 17, 2014 - 11:39 am

Yeah. Inflation plus losing another 0.5% of their pay to healthcare costs already pretty much guarantees their real income will not go up over the next five years. That’s actually a surprisingly good outcome already, going by past negotiations.

My concern would be work rule reform only achieves so much. If we’re honest about our needs, what do we do with most token booth clerks and conductors?

Larry Littlefield April 17, 2014 - 1:48 pm

“Pretty much guarantees their real income will not go up over the next five years. That’s actually a surprisingly good outcome already, going by past negotiations.”

Of course the average income of just about everyone else has been falling for 35 years, business cycle aside. If the public employees continue to get richer relative to everyone else, everyone else will be able to afford fewer of them.

If fewer of them can get the same work done, however, that isn’t a problem.

"Tony" April 17, 2014 - 8:30 pm

“If we’re honest about our needs, what do we do with most token booth clerks and conductors?” Get rid of them? Not likely. Shut down booths overnight and OPTO the “lesser” routes? More likely. And don’t forget about the bus operators. Hire part-timers w/ none of the benefits that the full-timers get. Not even a Metrocard…

Nathanael April 21, 2014 - 10:54 am

“If we’re honest about our needs, what do we do with most token booth clerks and conductors?”

London is forcing former ticket booth clerks to walk around the stations assisting people, or to sit in prominent places (not behind glass) assisting people.

As for conductors… Docklands Light Rail has “train captains” who are again, not behind glass, accessible to the passengers and on the watch for trouble.

For reasons I do not understand, the TWU has fought any suggestion that the conductors and token booth clerks should actually be out in public doing actual work. But there’s certainly work for them to *do*.

Brandon April 17, 2014 - 11:21 am

Give em raises and move to One Person Train Operation on the L train and the 7 train when CBTC is done.

Epson45 April 17, 2014 - 1:25 pm

You cant have OPTO on the 7 line yet. You need monitors. I don’t think we have OPTO for all lines if they dont change work rules.

LLQBTT April 17, 2014 - 12:52 pm

Outdated work rules are just that…outdated. Can anybody post a few examples? There’s always chatter surrounding them, but where in fact are they to see?

Phillip Roncoroni April 17, 2014 - 1:42 pm


“Co-mingling” is probably one of the most blatant ones. As per a rule that has been on the books since the 1960’s, if an engineer operates both diesel and electric equipment during the same shift, he or she is entitled to an entire extra day’s pay. So if an engineer that starts out on an electric run moves a diesel, even for a couple of feet, they get an entire extra day’s worth of pay. As you might imagine, the penalty pay resulting from this rule can be pretty staggering at times when the railroad is recovering from service disruptions or when a piece of equipment malfunctions. And as per the LIRR’s operating rules, the Dual-Mode engines (the 500 series engines that can operate on both diesel power and third rail) are considered electric equipment while the DE’s (the 400 series engines that look almost identical to the DM’s and can be used interchangeably) are not.

Larry Littlefield April 17, 2014 - 1:52 pm

The idea that TWU workers should be paid a much to drive a van as an articulated bus. The level of skill is vastly different

As a matter of fairness the TWU should allow entry level workers to be paid less (more like similar private sector workers) to drive vans, allowing NYCT to affordably substitute vans for buses in low traffic locations and times (overnight).

Similarly, titles should be consolidated across the MTA, and a commuter railroad train operator should be a promotion from a subway operator.

In some cases the unions get in the way of higher wages as a matter of blackmail. No higher pay for hard to recruit titles unless everyone gets it. It prevents the hiring of more qualified signal installers capable of replacing the expensive contractors and Local 3 on capital jobs.

Larry Littlefield April 17, 2014 - 1:14 pm

The time to judge these deals is after the fact. After the fact, we can say that in general the unions (like Wall Street) ripped off the serfs. But the TWU far less so that others.

Which is why, given the pattern idea, this is not a good thing. I would have dealt with the worst offenders first. It would have been easier to give the TWU more than it will not be to give others less.


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