Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) 244 issued its recommendations December 21 for settling a dispute between the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and its employees represented by the United Transportation Union Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (UTU-SMART) and several other labor unions.
The board’s recommendations are non-binding and the parties now have 120 days to reach agreement based on the recommendations.
The three board members recommended that the LIRR pay wage increase totaling 18.4 percent over six years (2.9 percent per year) and employees begin contributing to health insurance premium costs. After factoring in the recommended employee health insurance contributions, the board’s recommendations would still produce net wage increases of 2.5 percent per year.
“Obviously, I am satisfied with the board’s findings,” said SMART TD GO 505 General Chairperson Anthony Simon. “All unions on LIRR will accept the board’s recommendations, although they’re not everything that we bargained for, so we can avoid any inconvenience to the riding public.
In its report to the President Barack Obama, the board stated that, “It simply cannot be concluded that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) current financial position is one in which it is unable to pay for wage adjustments that are otherwise warranted.”
The board’s wage recommendations are retroactive to the first year of the contract dispute, which has been ongoing for more than three years. The board rejected MTA’s demand that workers accept three years of net zero wage increases, followed by two, two-percent increases over five years.
The board also rejected MTA’s demand for major concessions in pensions, including a permanent five percent employee contribution.
The PEB also rejected MTA’s demand that retirees begin paying for health insurance and that railroad retirement disability pensions be offset by LIRR’s pension payments.
PEB recommendations include that employees begin contributing to health insurance premium costs, beginning at one percent of 40 hours straight-time pay, at the contract’s opening date of June 16, 2010, and increasing by .25 percent increments each year thereafter. MTA had proposed larger employee contributions, while the affected unions had proposed no contributions from current employees.
If no agreement is reached, a second PEB can be appointed, whose recommendations would also be non-binding. If no agreement between LIRR and its unions is reached following the second PEB’s recommendations, the unions would be free to strike.