Two days before a workers planned to strike, labor leaders representing a coalition of Long Island Rail Road employees sat alongside management and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday to announce a deal.
Both the LIRR and officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had planned to reconvene after negotiations to settle a contract four years in the making restarted on Wednesday.
"Compromise by definition means neither side gets everything they wanted to get but it means we've reached an agreement and can move forward," the governor said as MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast sat to his left and union spokesman Anthony Simon to his right.
Cuomo, who had previously downplayed the possible strikes as "a pain" but "not a disaster" for the serivce that sees 300,000 daily commuters, praised the MTA's diligence as well as the unions' determination for the employees they serve.
He added that the "wide gulf" was settled by flexibility by both sides after the renewed talks.
"This definitely is a fair contract," Simon said. "Everyone one of us in the room always believed we could get to a deal and protect the riding public."
The settlement is based on decisions reached by the two presidential emergency boards that the unions demanded but is paid for through increased healthcare contributions. Prendergast said the deal means no new fare increases on top of those scheduled for 2015 and 2017.
However, details other than a 17 percent raise are scarce as both sides said they want the unions to provide the information to the unions' 5,400 members first. The MTA's board will also still need to approve of compromise on the table, but Prendergast said he was confident as it preserves the agency's longterm fiscally stability.
"This is a contract we know the board will support," he said.
If ratified by the union members, the deal would be in place through mid-2020, although Cuomo wasn't sure of its length when he was first asked by reporters.
"Hopefully for a long, long time," he said, "because I don't want to do it again."
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