|Simon, Cuomo, and Prendergast at a press conference|
announcing a deal earlier this afternoon.
Eventually, the leaders gave us a quick overview of the contract’s provisions. Members of the negotiating unions will get 17% wage increases over a contract period of 6.5 years. This does fall pretty close to the middle point between each of the agencies most recent offers (the unions pushed 17% over 6 years, the MTA over 7 years), though it is far from the MTA’s previous offers.
But the question that was everybody was wondering about was just how is this going to be paid for? While we are likely quite a while from getting any real details about the deal, it seems as if the parties have agreed to increased healthcare contributions (of an unknown percentage) for all employees, and changes to the wage-progression system for new employees. Under this tentative agreement, LIRR employees will begin to contribute to their healthcare costs for the first time, and new employees will take longer to reach top pay. We were mildly reassured that the deal would not have a significant impact on fare increases or the capital program. They always say that the devil is in the details, and since we haven’t gotten all of the details yet, we shouldn’t bet the mortgage on anything at this moment. It’s likely that fare increases of 7.5% instead of 4% are still likely, and the total impact on the MTA’s Capital Program is another large unknown.
More information on this deal will be made known over the coming days and weeks, but as it stands now, the unions are set to vote on the contract by August 15th, and the MTA Board at their September meeting. Both parties now have to agree to the contract their leadership crafted, so we aren’t free and clear just yet. Additionally, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers will be getting into the messy part of their contract negotiations in a short while, as they have traditionally negotiated separately from most of the other LIRR unions. Also, the moment that this 6.5 year contract is approved, we will automatically be 4 years into it, as the start date is retroactive to 2010, when the last contract expired. That means that this contract will only be in effect for just about three more years before we have to begin this whole process again.
With this contract, however, there was no mention of any changes whatsoever in things like work rules or overtime practices, so the MTA has missed a big opportunity to make the LIRR more streamlined and efficient.
A strike has been averted and a tentative deal reached; it’s certainly reason to breathe a sigh of relief, but like I said earlier, until we know the specific details of this particular contract, we should not be so quick to jump for joy.