Presidential Emergency Board Issues Recommendations on Long Island Rail Road

A Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) issued its recommendations on December 21 to settle the 3-1/2 year old dispute between eight unions, including TCU, and the Long Island Rail Road.

The Board, known as PEB 244, recommended a wage settlement totaling 18.4% over six years, or 2.9% a year. The Board’s wage recommendations are retroactive to the first year of bargaining. The Board decisively rejected New York MTA’s demand that workers accept three years of net zero wage increases, followed by two 2% increases, for a total of only 4% over five years.

The Board also rejected MTA’s demand for major concessions in pensions, including a permanent 5% employee contribution. Most Long Island workers currently contribute 3% or 4% for ten years. Some 70% of the workforce will finish their ten year obligation January 1, 2014, so MTA’s proposal, if granted, would have amounted to a 5% pay cut for them.

The PEB also rejected MTA’s demand that retirees begin paying for health insurance, and that railroad retirement disability pensions be offset against Long Island pension payments. MTA’s long list of proposed work rule concessions were also rejected in total.

The Board did recommend that employees begin contributing to health insurance, beginning at 1% of 40 hours straight time pay at the contract’s opening date June 16, 2010, and increasing by .25% increments each year thereafter, capping at 2.25% of 40 hours straight time pay on June 16, 2015. MTA had proposed larger contributions tied to Empire Plan premiums. The unions had proposed no contributions from current employees.

After factoring in the recommended employee health insurance contributions, the Board’s recommendations would produce net wage increases of 2.5% a year.

The Board issued its recommendations after holding hearings for a full week beginning December 2 in Manhattan. TCU/IAM National Vice President and Special Assistant to the President Joel Parker opened the unions’ case by testifying on behalf of a coalition of TCU, UTU, NCFO-SEIU, and the SMWIA, a coalition representing 70% of the Long Island’s work force. National Vice President Artie Maratea led the TCU delegation, which included National Representative William DeCarlo and all TCU Long Island local chairmen, as well as TCU local chairmen from Metro-North.

TCU National President Bob Scardelletti attended every session of the Board, and observed “I am proud of the case our unions put forward, and believe it resulted in PEB recommendations that are, on balance, fair and reasonable. The PEB was right to reject MTA’s radical agenda, which would have been devastating to our Long Island members.”

The PEB’s recommendations are non-binding. The parties now have 120 days to try to reach an agreement based on the recommendations. If no agreement is reached, the company or the Governor can ask for a second PEB to be appointed, whose recommendations would also be non-binding. If no agreement is reached following the second PEB’s recommendations, the unions would be free to strike, approximately in mid-July 2014.??

Click here to view the report released by the PEB.

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