‘Time is very short’: Talks to avert LIRR strike resume at Cuomo’s office

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NEW YORK (PIX11) – As the clock ticks down toward a potentially crippling Long Island Rail Road strike, MTA and union leaders returned to the bargaining table Thursday.

Both sides will resume their negotiations at 10 a.m. at Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Manhattan office, a scene change that could signal possible movement to avert a work stoppage.

"Late (Wednesday), when the conversations had not been fruitful, I began participating in them directly," Cuomo said in a statement Thursday. "Those conversations proceeded until late into the night.

"Time is very short. ... I want to make sure I have done everything I can possibly do to avert a strike."

Cuomo the day before described his outlook as "cautiously optimistic."

Speaking after five hours of negotiations on Wednesday in midtown Manhattan, the MTA and LIRR labor representatives emphasized they had not agreed on terms and would not comment on specifics.

Union leaders said they are still prepared to go on strike on at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. MTA officials said service changes could be implemented beginning on Saturday.

Both sides are battling over how much future LIRR workers will have to pay into their pensions and for healthcare and also the timing of raises for new hires. Current employees have been without a contract since 2010.

In the most recent, publicly disclosed deal last week, the MTA offered current LIRR employees:

  • A 17 percent wage increase over seven years
  • An average $22,000 retroactive payment
  • Health care contributions of just 2% of base salary
  • No changes to pension contributions
  • No changes to work rules

The union questions the MTA's math and the timing of the actual savings in the MTA budget. Both parties have agreed that current employees would contribute 2 percent to health care. LIRR workers currently do not pay anything.

"We're not any closer, we're not any further [to reaching an agreement]," a union representative said when asked if the parties had made any headway.

Nick Powell with "City & State" spoke to PIX11's Greg Mocker. They discussed Governor Cuomo's comments, which began with his interest in the role of Congress to his latest statement that a strike would hold Long Islanders "hostage."

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