Representatives for the labor group and the transit authority met yet again in Midtown on Wednesday after Cuomo rang up both sides and public released a statement asking them to avoid holding Long Islanders "hostage by a strike." Credit: Aaron Adler/Metro
After some soft intervention from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, leaders from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a coalition of Long Island Rail Road unions met for about five hours Wednesday after talks broke down earlier this week.
Representatives for the labor group and the transit authority held another morning meeting in Midtown after Cuomo rang up both sides and public released a statement asking them to avoid holding Long Islanders "hostage by a strike."
"Both the MTA and the LIRR unions need to put the interests of New Yorkers first by returning to the table today and working continuously to avoid a strike," Cuomo wrote.
The governor struck a different tone from his statements on Tuesday, when he told reporters at an unrelated event that a strike would be "is not a disaster — a real pain, maybe, but not a disaster."
Moments before stepping into the talks, labor spokesman Anthony Simon said he was prepared for the unfortunate but was stepping into the room with an open mind.
"If the offer is an offer that we can discuss, that will move the ball forward," he told reporters before the meeting.
The most recent deal laid out by the MTA would offer a 17 percent salary bump over seven years — the unions want it over six. Both are reportedly have agreed to current employees contributing 2 percent of their salaries to health care.
A previous sticking point that might still be relevant to both sides is how much new employees would have to contribute to their pensions, as well as their having to contribute as much as 4 percent to their health care costs and put in more years before they're eligible for top pay.
Just before the walking into the meeting, Simon also released an aggressively worded statement blaming the MTA for "irresponsible actions" that "will cause a strike." The unions continue to pressure management to adopt an offer laid out by two presidential emergency boards.
Simon said the MTA had rebuffed every compromise offered by the coalition and has been "wasting precious dollars" on two advertising campaigns to make their own case.
However, about five hours after walking into the talks, Simon told reporters that they had made progress on Wednesday.
Representatives from both sides said they plan to meet again on Thursday at 10 a.m. If no agreement is reached, the approximately 5,400 LIRR workers can still strike after the Saturday night deadline.