The potential for a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) strike is moving full steam ahead as talks over wages between the eight unions representing workers and MTA officials continue to stall, and Congress said it won’t intervene.
The MTA began putting out ads in newspapers, television and radio outlets, as well as on its website and social media, to alert riders of the potential strike, which could occur as early as July 20.
MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast met with Congress members on July 9, following a failure in discussions with the National Mediation Board, but the lawmakers reportedly said it is “unlikely” that they would step in if a work stoppage occurred.
About 5,400 workers are planning to walk off the job, which would leave 300,000 riders stranded from Long Island, throughout Queens and other boroughs.
The MTA is planning “very limited,” weekday shuttle bus service to start within 24 to 48 hours of any strike, the agency said. But it warned, “Shuttle bus service should be your last resort.”
“We continue to hope that we can avoid a work stoppage at the bargaining table,” Prendergast said. “But nevertheless, we want LIRR customers and all Long Island residents to be aware that there is a potential for a disruption of service and what that might mean.”
The MTA’s latest offer in June was for a 17 percent raise in wages, stretched over the next seven years without a change in pension. But the unions maintain that they want 17 percent raises over the next six years.
“[Prendergast] should be here in New York with the labor organizations, [not in Washington],” Anthony Simon, the lead labor negotiator, told the New York Times. “What is the chairman of the MTA doing 250 miles away from the solution?”
Governor Andrew Cuomo called for both sides to return to the bargaining table, after Congress members said they won’t step in.
“A strike is just not an option and would be a terrible failure by both the unions and the MTA,” Cuomo said. “The unions’ false belief that Congress would step in to mandate a settlement was a major impediment to any real progress. With this obstacle removed, it is now clear that the only path to resolution is at the bargaining table between the MTA and the unions, and they should proceed in good faith.”