NEW YORK — The dispute between Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority following transit workers’ rejection of a proposed contract continues. While the union is seeking to return to good faith bargaining, the MTA has offered a new contract that union leaders and rank-and-file members alike characterize as “insulting.”

The MTA’s proposal, put forward Jan. 23, includes all of the demands that the union rejected originally, including the illegal demand for a two-tier pension system that the union said was the main reason for the strike. It calls for concessions that had not even been on the table in the final negotiations. In addition, it removes every benefit that the recent contract proposal contained.

At the same time the MTA offered its proposal, it filed for binding arbitration — something the union is resisting, because the process ultimately takes the decision out of the hands of the transit workers. Many see the MTA’s current proposal as a way to push the TWU towards accepting the declaration of an impasse, which must occur before binding arbitration.

“The current contract that’s been put on the table by the MTA is not a serious offer,” said John Liu, Democratic City Council member from Queens and chair of the council’s transportation subcommittee. “They’re simply trying to box the workers into an untenable situation. It’s obvious the MTA simply wants to let the situation go to arbitration instead of having to work on it themselves.”

Press reports have also speculated that the MTA proposal is not a final offer.

Roger Toussaint, president of TWU Local 100, said, “We have reached out to the MTA and we are hopeful that we will get the opportunity to read what the MTA’s actual intentions are.”

All of this follows a pre-Christmas strike, the first in over 25 years, ignited by the MTA’s drive to impose a two-tier pension scheme. The strike forced major concessions from the MTA, including the removal of the pension clause, and a number of new benefits, including a pension refund, maternity leave, and better health care upon retirement. The concession made to the MTA was a payment of 1.5 percent of gross income by transit workers into their health care. This proved to be the main sticking point that drove many to vote against the contract.

“We intend to resume negotiations,” Toussaint said. “That’s the path that’s available to us, and we think that we will be able to resolve things along that path.” He said he was confident that the parties could reach a fair settlement, adding, “What we work from is the negotiated settlement that we reached two weeks ago.”

Local 100’s leadership is demanding that Gov. George Pataki not interfere with the process going forward. Pataki is seen as having sown confusion during the run-up to the contract vote, suggesting that one of the stipulations of the agreement, a pension refund that would give around $10,000 to half the workers, would never materialize.

“The governor has been utterly irresponsible in his lack of action and almost profane rhetoric before, during and after the transit shutdown,” Liu said.

Charles Jenkins, chair of the TWU’s Line Equipment Section and a membership outreach organizer, said that the media was playing a negative role. He said the news focused almost entirely on people who were against the contract prior to the vote, and is currently portraying the union as divided into warring factions. “I think it was very harmful, and the media takes a very negative approach to defending the rights of working-class people.”

Union leaders said that, while members disagreed over the contract, reports of division were overblown and that there is widespread determination within the union to work together for a good contract.

“The real issue here is the issue of 34,000 transit workers,” Toussaint said, adding that the negative media barrage is being directed by “the interests in New York who want to pay us back for coming off of a successful strike” because “the example of our actions contributed to the resurgence of the labor movement.”

Tags:

Comments

comments

MOST POPULAR