NEW YORK (PIX11) - Talks between the MTA and the unions representing LIRR workers collapsed Monday, with less than a week to go before a strike that could cripple the railroad system, America's largest.
The strike is set to begin on Sunday at 12:01 a.m., but service could begin to wind down as early as Wednesday, according to a union rep, because of the need to secure equipment. The MTA says service could be reduced beginning Saturday.
After both sides met in midtown Manhattan law offices to resume negotiations Monday, MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast walked out after only 45 minutes.
"The offer that the MTA had on the table was clear, it was understood," Prendergast said during a press conference Monday afternoon.
Prendergast remarked: "I thought about it over the weekend, there is a gulf, not a gap with LIRR labor." The unions, however, insist the MTA dismissed their latest offer.
According to Prendergast, the MTA is fully aware of the impact a strike would have on commuters.
Saying a strike appears likely, top labor negotiator Anthony Simon said the eight unions representing 5,400 workers are moving ahead with plans to walk off their jobs on Sunday, the AP reported.
Waking into the meeting earlier, both sides had expressed hope but also said they were not near a deal.
According to Prendergast, if the MTA were to agree to the union rules, it would put additional pressure on fare increases in the long haul.
The MTA is offering workers a 17 percent raise over seven years; the union is seeking those raises over six years. Both have agreed that current employees would contribute 2% to health care (LIRR workers currently pay nothing).
The MTA's latest offer also asks for new hires to pay 4% in health care contributions and also for new hires to pay into pensions for a longer amount of time. It would also take longer for new hires to achieve raises. The union questions the MTA's math and says the union's counter offer was a step in the direction of negotiation.
The MTA has offered the following contingency plan in the case of strike that could maroon 300,000 riders a day:
Details for each mode of transportation follow:
The MTA has worked with Long Island bus companies to establish a network of 350 buses that will shuttle customers from eight locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties to three major subway stations in Queens. The shuttle bus locations include seven LIRR stations and Nassau Community College.
The MTA expects the buses would be able to carry 15,000 customers – twice as many as the 7,000 people carried by buses during the 1994 LIRR labor outage.
The buses would operate during rush hours only, and only in the peak direction of travel. They will run into New York City between 4-7 a.m. and return to Long Island between 3-7 p.m. Disabled customers will also be able to use Access-A-Ride vehicles available at those locations.
Buses would travel along these routes:
In Suffolk County:
- Buses would pick up passengers at the Ronkonkoma and Deer Park LIRR stations and connect to the 7 subway station at Mets-Willets Point / Citi Field.
In Nassau County:
- Buses would pick up passengers at the Manhasset LIRR station and connect to the 7 subway station at Mets-Willets Point / Citi Field.
- Buses would pick up passengers at the Seaford, Bellmore and Freeport LIRR stations, as well as Nassau Community College, and connect to the A subway station at Howard Beach
- Buses would pick up passengers at the Hicksville LIRR station and connect to the M and R subway station at Woodhaven Boulevard
A free ferry service would operate from Glen Cove to East 34th Street in Midtown. The ferry would do three westbound runs in the morning and three eastbound at night. They would be able to carry 1,000 customers and trips would take 40 minutes.
Parking at Glen Cove is very limited. The MTA recommends that passengers carpool or arrange for dropoff and pickup.
Dedicated park-and-ride lots would be established in Queens as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties, to provide more transportation options than were available in 1994. These lots would be monitored by spotters using social media to send real-time alerts about how many spaces are available.
- CitiField, where customers can connect to the 7 subway, has 4,000 available parking spaces
- Aqueduct Racetrack, where customers can connect to the A subway, has 3,000 available parking spaces.
We are also providing 8,400 parking spots in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, where friends and colleagues can meet to carpool together:
- Farmingdale State College
- Belmont State Park
- Sunken Meadow State Park
- Heckscher State Park
- Valley Stream State Park
- Hempstead Lake State Park
- Bethpage State Park
All of these lots will be secured by MTA Police, Port Authority Police, the NYPD, New York State Police and other police agencies.
For Those Who Choose to Drive
There are also more than 100 public and private parking lots available within five blocks of subway stations in Queens and Brooklyn. Links to them are provided on our website.
The MTA is working closely with the State and Nassau and Suffolk counties to ease traffic as much as possible. The High Occupancy Vehicle lane on the Long Island Expressway will be expanded to require three people in a vehicle, not just two.
Nassau and Suffolk County Police will step up their enforcement on major routes to ensure smoother traffic flow. The State Department of Transportation has 50 portable variable message signs ready to guide customers to the carpool and shuttle lots in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Those messages will be updated in real time with travel times and parking lot capacities to give motorists maximum flexibility.
State DOT will also have tow trucks, Highway Emergency Local Patrol trucks and roadway maintenance crews at key locations to keep the roadways clear. All non-emergency construction and highway work will be suspended.
For More Information
Customers seeking more information should turn to the MTA’s website, www.mta.info, for full information about all the shuttle bus, ferry, parking and carpooling options. It will also provide links to the state’s carpooling website which matches riders together.
The MTA will provide information on Twitter, on Facebook, by email, by text message and on the LIRR’s Train Time mobile app. Details of these live feeds will be provided next week, if needed.