After four years of negotiations with New Jersey Transit (NJT), the IAM and the other unions representing workers on the carrier have been granted the appointment of a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to make recommendations to finally get a fair agreement.
The National Mediation Board (NMB) released every commuter union from mediated talks last month when it became obvious that the NJT would not make a reasonable offer to the New Jersey Transit Rail Labor Coalition, the affiliation which includes the IAM, TCU/IAM and 15 other unions on the commuter carrier. Following the NMB action, the coalition immediately requested the appointment of a PEB.
Last week the President acted and named a three person PEB chaired by Elizabeth Wesman, who served on the second PEB for Long Island Railroad negotiations last year. Barbara Deinhardt, former chairwoman of the New York State Employment Relations Board and Ann Kenis, a professional arbitrator for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and American Arbitration Association, fill the other two positions on the board.
IAM District 19 and Local 1041 represent more than 220 members at NJT and have been negotiating for a new contract since 2011. The coalition has proposed settlements consistent with 2014 commuter railroad settlements with Long Island Railroad and Metro-North Railroad. NJT insists upon unreasonable concessions that include wage adjustments far below comparable agreements and requirements that make employees with families pay more than four times what they currently pay for health benefits.
“The appointment of this PEB is a major step in ensuring that our members achieve a fair agreement,” said District 19 General Chairman Gary Naylor. “I am confident that our case for a settlement patterned after the other commuter railroads in the Northeast is stronger than NJT’s case for a concessionary contract.”
The formation of this PEB will start a 120-day cooling off period in which neither the workers nor NJT can pursue other measures. The board will hear arguments from each side and issue non-binding recommendations within 30 days.