After more than five years of bargaining, Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) 249 has selected the Coalition Unions’ final offer in its entirety as the “most reasonable” in its January 11, 2016 recommendation to settle negotiations on New Jersey Transit (NJT).
The three member neutral panel, appointed by President Obama, reviewed the findings of PEB 248, which the Coalition submitted as its final offer, and found the rationale of the first Board to be compelling. In contrast, NJT’s final offer differed little from the concessionary proposal it made to PEB 248. In rejecting NJT’s position, the Board wrote that “We find that the Carrier’s push to link the wages, benefits and working conditions of its employees to those of state employees is not moving the parties toward a voluntary agreement.”
“Coalition members deserve a fair deal,” said General Vice President Sito Pantoja. “Now it’s up to New Jersey Transit to do the right thing based upon the recommendations of not one, but two PEBs.”
PEB 249 accepted the Coalition’s argument that the most relevant comparators were the recent settlements reached by rail workers at other commuter railroads in the region. The neutral panel pointed out that NJT never before compared state worker contracts to commuter rail workers’ contracts. Had they done so, NJT commuter workers would have enjoyed far higher wages over the past thirty years.
The Board found that, “PEBs have not accorded significant weight to state employee agreements because … the skills, qualifications and working conditions are simply not comparable.”
The recommendations call for wage increases totaling 17% over a six year term; health insurance contributions that will rise to 2.5% of straight time pay by January 1, 2017; modest increases in employee copays for in-network doctor visits and emergency room visits; mandatory mail order for prescription drugs; 20 minute Conductor certification pay; and a five year phase-in of Carrier 401(a) contributions for new hires. NJT’s proposal to eliminate employee passes was rejected.
Coalition leaders have reached out to NJT to return to the bargaining table to reach an agreement based on PEB 248 and 249’s recommendations. If no agreement is reached, a strike or lockout can begin at 12:01 AM, March 13, 2016.
IAM/TCU is part of a multi-union bargaining coalition at New Jersey Transit.