Less than two weeks after top transit-union officials excoriated Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Patrick Foye and hinted a strike might be unavoidable if he led management’s negotiating team, they apparently concluded they couldn’t reach terms on a new contract without him at the bargaining table.
But while face-to-face talks between the MTA and Transport Workers Union Local 100 started Nov. 12 and continued into the next day at an undisclosed Manhattan location, by Nov. 14 they had broken down again, with Local 100 President Tony Utano claiming the discussions "actually set us back."
No Way to OK and Back
He said in a statement, "Foye presented us with a new set of demands today that are substantially worse than the insulting package he threw across the table three months ago. Foye not only appears unwilling to negotiate in good faith, he is intentionally spoiling for a confrontation."
TWU International President John Samuelsen said in a phone interview that Mr. Foye inexplicably excluded New York City Transit President Andy Byford from the negotiating, leading to a lack of practical knowledge about the transit system's operations among the management bargaining team.
Mr. Samuelsen also took issue with the MTA's recent decision to shift close to $100 million from its operating budget--which among other things covers employee salaries--to the capital budget covering construction and equipment.
While MTA Chief Financial Officer Richard Foran called the transfer "a fiscally responsible thing to do," Mr. Samuelsen said, "You keep taking money out of the farebox to pump it into the capital plan at the risk of this brand-new system falling into a state of disrepair because there is no operating money to maintain it."
MTA Communications Director Tim Minton said in a statement that the agency "is committed to reaching fair contracts with its unions, including TWU Local 100, that will be mutually beneficial. Beyond that, we don't negotiate in the press."
The brief end of the bargaining standstill on a pact to replace the one that expired six months ago came after the union dropped its demand that Mr. Foye be replaced as the agency’s lead negotiator.
“While we in TWU remain fully committed to a negotiated settlement, we have lost confidence in your ability to negotiate a fair and acceptable contract for this membership,” Mr. Utano wrote Mr. Foye just five days before they resumed talking, citing his track record when he led the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“We do not believe that you have thus far made any good-faith effort to settle our contract,” he wrote. “You have a history of refusing to negotiate collective-bargaining agreements when you were with the Port Authority—as union contracts languished for years unresolved.”
The letter was also sent to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and the members of the agency’s board.
Cuomo: Just Keep Talking
“The Governor received the letter from the TWU regarding ongoing contract negotiations and will advise his Board Members that he believes they should sit at the bargaining table until an agreement is reached,” the Governor’s Secretary, Melissa DeRosa, said in a statement.
During the union’s Oct. 28 rally that drew more than 8,000 members to MTA headquarters in lower Manhattan, union leaders showcased their disdain for Mr. Foye.
Mr. Samuelsen told reporters Local 100’s relations with Mr. Foye had so badly soured that he needed to be replaced. “With Pat Foye in this equation, a contract is not going to get done,” he said. “Pat Foye is a stumbling block…The situation could very well spin out of control on Pat Foye.”
The union submitted its initial demands in April and waited four months for the MTA’s counter-offer, which the TWU executive committee tore up and rejected as “insulting.”
Job-Cut Plan Rankled
Relations also deteriorated between the union and an agency that was under pressure from a state-mandated reorganization that its management consultant said should feature the elimination of 2,700 jobs for an annual savings of a half-billion dollars.
There was also a public battle between the two sides over who was to blame for a $418-million spike in overtime costs for 2018, a 16-percent rise that was first reported in May by the Empire Policy Center, a conservative think tank.
The union faults the MTA, because it hired only about 800 transit workers under an improvement plan that originally required 2,000 to get the system back to a state of good repair. “When you want to increase service delivery and you want to increase the state of repair of the track and you need 2,000 bodies and you don’t hire them, you know what you do? You pay overtime,” said Mr. Samuelsen, who’s an MTA Board member.
At a July 24 board meeting, Mr. Foye fingered contract provisions that he said over the last 10 years had resulted in the average employee availability “consistently” trending “down to current levels.”
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