When will the NJ Transit strike begin (if at all)?

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NEW JERSEY — The countdown is on until March 13 when, one minute after midnight, thousands of New Jersey Transit rail workers might begin their strike in an effort to secure higher wages and health care contributions.

If a deal is not struck by 12:01 a.m. Sunday, trains along the agency’s 11 lines would come to a halt, leaving 160,000 weekday riders to squeeze in a bind. NJ Transit says just 40,000 bus seats will be available under the agency’s strike contingency plan.

At the heart of New Jersey Transit’s looming rail strike are the demands of 4,300 unionized workers over wages and health care contributions.

Workers, represented by the NJT Rail Labor Coalition comprised of 11 unions, are asking for a contract averaging 2.5 percent in wage increases a year and “significant increases” in employee health care contributions, according to the Teamsters. NJ Transit is offering 0.6 percent net wage increases per year.

Should a work stoppage become a reality, the first test of its impact on customers’ commute would begin Monday morning. About 40 percent of the rail system’s daily weekday ridership will be accommodated under the agency’s contingency plan.

Riders can park at five lots throughout New Jersey and ride into New York from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. No midday, weekend or reverse commute service will operate on the park-and-ride routes, the agency said.