Commuters can board Long Island Rail Road trains this week with a spring in their step and a sigh of relief.
Last week, there were handshakes all around, as Governor Cuomo, MTA chairman Tom Prendergast, and Anthony Simon, the union coalition leader, announced they had reached a deal averting a strike.
Cuomo had deftly intervened to bring the parties together. “We wanted to make sure that the MTA didn’t need to raise fares and had the funds necessary to manage the system long term, and I believe that we did that,” he said.
We agree. Terms of the tentative agreement provide wage increases of 17 percent over six and a half years. To help pay for raises, new workers will contribute more to pension and health care, and wait longer for top pay.
To his credit, Simon signaled a new attitude among workers, saying they also cared about achieving financial stability for the railroad.
It’s a welcome change.
Last year, federal courts convicted dozens of former LIRR workers for criminally claiming disability pensions, tainting the workforce with a culture of corruption. This culture is made worse by outdated work rules that many LIRR workers abuse to pad paychecks and pensions, an issue not addressed in these negotiations. It still needs to be.
Last week, Governor Cuomo’s MTA reinvention commission met in New York to chart long-term strategies, but, ironically, failed to address the critical issue of labor relations.
Hopefully, this new agreement promises less adversarial labor relations in the future, based on recognizing that the financial stability of the railroad matters to everyone.