The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Transport Workers Union Local 100 say the tentative contract deal they reached Dec. 4—providing raises of a shade less than 10 percent over four years—effectively balances the agency’s fiscal needs with the concerns of the 37,000 workers who are credited with significantly improving the transit system’s performance.
The deal was approved by Local 100’s executive board on Dec. 5 by a 42 to 4 vote with 3 abstentions. The pact must be approved by the rank and file and then would be voted on by the full MTA board. The last contract expired on May 16 and the new one will run for four years from that date.
Breakdown of Raises
Union members will see a 2-percent raise, retroactive to May 16, 2019, followed by a 2.25-percent hike next May, a 2.5-percent increase in the third year, and a 2.75-percent bump effective May 16, 2022.
“Total amount compounded over the life of the contract is 9.8 percent,” said Tony Utano, president of Local 100. “At the end of the contract if a guy is making $30 an hour, he will see a $3-an-hour raise. If he is making $35 an hour, it'll be $3.50 an hour.”
“This is a good contract that respects and values the hardworking men and women of the MTA who keep New York City moving,” said Vincent Alvarez, president of the AFL-CIO New York City Central Labor Council.
The deal covers more than 30,000 TWU members employed by NYC Transit and 6,600 employees of the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority (MaBSTOA), which includes Bus Operators, Maintainers, and Cleaners out of seven bus depots in Manhattan and the Bronx.
Retro Checks Up to $2G
Mr. Utano estimated that by the time the deal was formally adopted early next year, members would be looking at retro checks that would range between $1,500 and $2,000.
“We held the line on health care with no increases in payroll deductions and we increased the dental,” he said. “We are going to get $1,000 towards dental implants.”
There will, however, be increases in emergency-room co-pays and hikes in prescription-drug co-pays meant to encourage workers to purchase generic equivalents.
“This contract reflects the hard work of thousands of Transit employees who have helped us reach the highest on-time subway performance in more than half a decade, while providing a fair deal for taxpayers and our more-than eight million daily customers,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye. “The tentative agreement is responsive to the financial challenges we face and addresses important issues such as accessibility, overtime and health-care costs.”
In the agency’s press release, it noted that the union and management had identified over $44 million in annual savings to particially fund the raises.
Availability Key Issue
In July, Mr. Foye had said that over the years union work rules had proliferated to such an extent that it was reflected in a lack of worker availability, which he said was a contributing factor to a $418 million spike in overtime last year, a 16-percent rise over the previous year.
He maintained that union workers averaged between 198 and 208 days, “subtracting vacation days, sick days, holidays, injured on the job.”
“Availability impacts overtime because employees who are out must be backfilled, usually on overtime,” he argued.
The union countered that the overtime spike was the result of the agency hiring only 800 of the more-than 2,000 workers that it had said would be required to compete the MTA’s emergency subway rescue plan, which has been credited with improving on-time performance and increasing ridership.
A $17M Annual Savings
In its statement, the MTA said it had secured a commitment from the union to improve by 1 1/2 days the amount of time that workers would be available for work, “which will deliver an estimated $17 million in annual savings to the MTA,” according to the agency. Savings from any increase beyond the first additional day in availability will be shared with the union, which Mr. Foye called their first gain-sharing program during an appearance on NY1.
Heading into negotiations, relations between Mr. Foye and Mr. Utano had so badly deteriorated that the TWU had publicly demanded that the MTA Chairman be replaced at the bargaining table.
Mr. Utano said that on the final day of the talks, the presence of NYC Transit President Andy Byford had been helpful.
The agreement commits to “modernize the agency’s approach to discipline to ensure policies are more progressive and fair to employees,” according to the MTA statement.
“I really believe Andy Byford wants to change the culture and wants people to be happy to come to work and not to always put under the pressure of discipline,” Mr. Utano said.
But not all the stakeholders were enthusiastic.
“This a sellout contract for all MTA workers,” said Tramell Thompson, a Train Conductor whose Progressive Action slate came in third place in the last union election. “Out of the major city agencies (FDNY, NYPD, DSNY, Correction) through 2023 we continue to be the lowest paid. Our future contractual 2023 salaries still can’t keep up with these agencies’ 2019 salaries.”
Joseph Campbell, who led the Transit Workers United slate that finished second in the last union election also contended the deal came up short, saying, “The bloated salaries of MTA executives and TWU reps can withstand paltry increases, but we can’t.”
Ballots for the contract vote are scheduled to be mailed out on Dec. 18 and counted Jan. 9.
While a contract, if ratified, signals some stability for the system, it still faces major fiscal hurdles as a consequence of decades of massive borrowing that came even as the system failed to properly upgrade its infrastructure.
New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli reported Sept. 19, that despite the commitment of $32 billion in state and Federal funds for the MTA’s 2020-2024 capital program, “additional funding will still be needed to modernize the subway system.”
He added that “before taking into consideration the next five-year capital program, outstanding debt is projected to reach $41.8 billion by 2022, an increase of 19 percent from 2019.”
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