LIRR labor-management negotiations, which began in 2010, reached an impasse last year. LIRR demanded its unions accept a pattern established by New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in non-rail public employee bargaining. Cuomo had exacted from state employee unions a concessionary five-year contract with an initial three-year wage freeze and just a 4% total wage increase over the final two years.Basically, Cuomo feels that because he forced other unions to take a bad deal, he can do the same with the LIRR workers. But the LIRR workers are playing by different rules, literally: different labor laws apply to them as railroad workers than to state workers. Not one but two Presidential Emergency Boards, appointed to make settlement recommendations, have sided with the unions over management. The offers the unions and management brought to the second PEB were telling:
Simon, the unions’ chief negotiator—who bristled that his members had not received pay raises exceeding inflation since 1991, and who was determined to maintain LIRR hourly wages as high or higher than any other commuter railroad in the nation—recognized that while Cuomo’s cudgel over state employee unions was a threat of massive furloughs, the MTA couldn’t operate a commuter railroad by sacking large numbers of workers. Furloughing operating, maintenance, or certain clerical crews would immediately cause the quantity, quality, and safety of commuter rail to deteriorate rapidly.
... the lack of notice and bargaining on substantial issues in the Carrier’s final offer is of significant concern [...] The Unions’ final offer, on the other hand, represents a reasonable balance addressing the priorities of both parties. The wage recommendations are a compromise between the wage increases at the MTA (2010-11) and the commuter railroad averages (2012-16). It is noteworthy that the Unions' assertion that real wage increases for LIRR employees, absent inflation, have not increased at all since 1991, was not challenged by the Carrier.Workers are rallying on Saturday to urge Cuomo and the MTA to agree to the extended cooling-off period. The question may boil down to how confident Andrew Cuomo is that he can portray 6,000 LIRR workers as the bad guys despite the two Presidential Emergency Board recommendations in their favor, or whether he'd like to be seen swooping in at the last minute to take the credit for averting a strike through the summer.