NEW YORK (PIX11) – The MTA is seeking help from Congress as a Long Island Rail Road strike looms.
MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast sent a letter to Congress Tuesday, asking if they would intervene in the labor dispute with the LIRR unions, according to a press release.
“I am writing to you to seek clarification on what role Congress intends to play in the event that 5,400 employees of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) walk off the job as early as Sunday, July 20th and paralyze the nation’s largest regional economy,” the letter reads in part.
A Union representative said the talks “broke down” but they don’t want Congress involved.
"As Chairman of the MTA, I strongly believe that a resolution can be reached in a fiscally responsible manner; unfortunately, the union’s leadership has taken the position that the MTA must meet its demands or it will strike, a threat they feel comfortable making because they assume Congress will stop their strike after a few days," Prendergast says.
Representatives from the coalition of LIRR unions and MTA negotiations met at the law offices of the agency's counsel. Also present were federal mediators from the National Labor Relations Board.
Union representatives say they are willing to continue meeting.
On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo indicated Congress could get involved once a strike begins under the Federal Railway Labor Act (which governs the LIRR unions and MTA negotiation process). He did not comment on his role in the negotiations.
The LIRR carries over 300,000 commuters everyday.
About 5,200 LIRR workers have been without a contract since 2010. A federal review board recommended a package that included 17% raises over 6 years and a 2% employee health care contribution.
The union coalition has said it would accept that recommendation. The MTA says it can't afford it and that deal would cause the agency to use funds that could be put toward projects.
The MTA has offered 17% raises for current employees over 7 years with new hires contributing 4% to health care and more to their pensions. Raises for the new hires would be every other year instead of every year (for a period of 10 years instead of 5).
The unions say that would diminish the quality of the jobs.