Contract talks between MTA, transit workers union go off the rails

Negotiations between the MTA and TWU Local 100 have gone off the rails. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Negotiations between the MTA and the TWU Local 100 on a new labor deal have broken down, it was reported Thursday night.

After two days of discussions, both sides left the table seemingly further apart from a new contract than they were going into the latest round of talks, according to Tony Utano, president of Local 100, which represents thousands of workers who help keep the city’s subways and buses running.

“These two days of bargaining have actually set us back,” Utano said in a statement to WABC-TV on Nov. 14. He pinned the blame on MTA Chairman Patrick Foye, who he said “presented us with a new set of demands today that are substantially worse than the insulting package he threw across the table three months ago.”

The divide appears to be over wages, pension, health benefits and allegations of overtime abuse, according to WABC-TV.

The tensions between the authority and union appear to be coming to a head, and Utano alleged in his statement that Foye “not only appears unwilling to negotiate in good faith,” but is also “intentionally spoiling for a confrontation.”

That confrontation, however, does not appear to be a work stoppage. When WPIX-TV asked if that meant a strike was looming, Utano said he would meet soon with the union’s Executive Committee Friday “to discuss any further actions that will be taken.”

Tim Minton, MTA communications director, told WPIX that the authority remains “committed to reaching fair contracts with its unions.”

Last week, as amNewYork reported, Utano called on the MTA to engage in “around the clock” discussions to hammer out a new labor pact. The TWU Local 100 has been working without a contract for more than 172 days.

The animosity between the MTA and union, and specifically between Foye and Utano, has been growing into a rolling boil. Shortly after an October rally with union workers, the TWU Local 100 cancelled a scheduled meeting with the MTA over a leaked email in which Foye accused Utano of corruption.

Utano blasted Foye in a Nov. 7 letter and statement, charging that as Port Authority executive director, Foye allowed labor contracts to languish — and that the TWU Local 100 was now receiving the same treatment.

The MTA and TWU Local 100 have had relative labor peace since December 2005, when the last transit strike occurred. It lasted two days at the height of the holiday shopping season, angering commuters and last-minute shoppers alike.

A strike would violate the state’s Taylor Law forbidding a walkout by public employees.

Robert Pozarycki