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The Transport Workers Union and Metro-North Railroad have reached a tentative contract agreement for about 600 train mechanics, inspectors, cleaners and cabinet makers. And they will have to do it all again soon.
The retroactive deal, covering workers represented by TWU Local 2001 and TWU Local 2055, includes a 9.5 percent wage increase over the course of a 50-month deal, terms that conform with the commuter rail pattern.
The agreement, which came about following federal mediation, runs from Sept. 1, 2019 through Oct. 30, 2023, meaning it already is technically expired.
Nonetheless, TWU International President John Samuelsen praised the contract’s terms.
“This agreement is economically favorable to our members at Metro-North and achieves our goals,” Samuelsen said in a statement. “Our members can now fully focus on what they do best, providing uninterrupted quality service to MN riders.”
The deal also provides what the union characterized as an “unprecedented” tool-allowance increase of $500, payable each January and increased the annual bonus to $650. The union said the MTA’s demand that the authority should be allowed to renegotiate portions of the contract at any time is not part of contract language. That request was a point of major dispute, the union said.
The MTA, in a section of an earlier iteration of the contract, noted that its finances had been decimated by the pandemic. It said that the agreement “is only possible” because of $14 billion in federal subsidies that cushioned the MTA’s fiscal fall following the pandemic. The authority wanted language included that the agreement would “become amendable virtually upon its ratification allowing the parties to gain a better understanding of the ‘new normal’ as the Nation emerges from the Pandemic and the financial, economic and ridership impacts begin to clarify.”
Samuelsen in July called the proposed language “hysterically laughable.”
The two locals at the time were distributing flyers at Grand Central warning of a strike and urging commuters to call MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber to tell him to “bargain fairly.”
Metro-North, which runs trains between the city and its northern suburbs and Connecticut, is the nation’s second-busiest commuter rail system in the nation, trailing only Long Island Rail Road.
The system recorded nearly 29 million unlinked trips in the first six months of the year, about 24 percent more than through the same period last year, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
John J. McCarthy, the MTA’s chief of policy and external relations, welcomed the agreement. “The MTA and TWU Locals 2001 and 2055 have reached a tentative labor agreement through a successful collective bargaining process,” he said in a statement.
Governor Kathy Hochul, also in a statement, said she was grateful for the outcome. “I am committed to providing the best possible service to Metro-North riders and I am pleased that the Transport Workers Union and the MTA have reached a tentative agreement that allows this critical service to keep moving forward,” the governor said.
Unlike their colleagues in city transit, who are prohibited from striking by the state’s Taylor Law, employees of the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and Staten Island Railway workers are subject to the jurisdiction of the federal Railway Labor Act of 1926 and can go out on strike. Although Metro-North is part of a state authority, its workers are governed by federal law because they were transferred from Conrail, the 1970s-era federal rail system. Metro-North workers last went on strike in 1983, an action that lasted six weeks.
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