Negotiations between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Transport Workers Union 100 resumed Nov. 27, nearly two weeks after face-to-face talks imploded 48 hours after they began.
“MTA Chairman Pat Foye reached out to me yesterday [Nov. 26] and asked that we go into Executive Session to try and reach agreement on a new contract. I have accepted,” said Local 100 President Tony Utano. “The 40,000 hardworking men and women who move 8 million people a day by subway and bus deserve a fair contract.”
Foye: ‘We’re Committed’
“The MTA has repeatedly said we are committed to reaching a mutually acceptable agreement with TWU Local 100 that builds on the sustained improvements our workforce has achieved,” Mr. Foye said in a statement.
Neither the union nor the agency would comment beyond their public statements.
Mr. Utano had initiated the earlier talks in an abrupt reversal just 15 days after he called for Mr. Foye to be replaced at the table for denouncing his proposal to save the MTA tens of millions in prescription drug costs as “corrupt” and “unlawful.”
After an Oct. 28 rally outside MTA headquarters, TWU International President John Samuelsen told reporters that 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.
The pre-Thanksgiving détente between the two sides followed hints of work slow-downs that would affect holiday shopping.
Deny Union Sanctioned It
“TWU members plotting the slowdown are pushing their members to adhere so strictly to contract regulations and work rules that it would make riding New York’s beleaguered trains even more frustrating,” the New York Post reported.
Union officials denied that there was any such coordinated effort, which would be illegal under New York’s Taylor Law.
Mr. Samuelsen had told the Post that any degradation of service was the inevitable result of transit workers being “angry and demoralized” because of the lack of engagement by management in serious wage talks.
The off-and-on negotiations come as both union and management have expressed concern about violent assaults against transit workers.
‘A Top Priority’
At a City Council hearing on Nov. 25, Mr. Foye testified that his agency’s plan to hire 500 new MTA police officers made a “top priority [of quelling] a significant increase” in both physical and sexual assaults on subway and bus workers.
Council Members led by Speaker Corey Johnson grilled Mr. Foye on spending an additional $50 million annually for the officers which members asserted was focused on stemming fare evasion.
“The last thing we want is for fare evasion to result in an arrest which creates so many unintended consequences,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.
“Fare evasion should be resolved by free transportation,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee, who also called for an expansion of the City’s Fair Fares NYC program that provides low income New Yorkers half-price fares.
MTA official estimate bus and subway fare evasion, which is on an upward trajectory, costs the system a quarter of a billion dollars annually in lost revenue.
Union: Offer $100M Short
According to union sources, an acceptable contract settlement would require an additional $100 million committed to labor going forward.
As part of securing the $30 billion in long-term financing of the system’s long-neglected rail and bus network from City Hall and Albany, the MTA committed to streamline its operations, including the elimination of 2,700 positions.
Despite the stressed labor-management relations, the agency’s efforts under Andy Byford, President of New York City Transit, to improve on-time performance and reverse the decline in ridership have produced results.
In October, the agency said its weekday ridership increased by 4.45 percent. In September, for the fourth month in a row, on-time subway performance exceeded 80 percent.
The service improvements that occurred after an 18-month surge in around-the-clock system upgrades came with some sticker shock—a $418-million spike in overtime costs. A prime cause was the MTA’s decision to hire only 800 new workers rather than the 2,000 originally planned, forcing it to increase overtime to get the work done.
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