Jan. 29--Long Island Rail Road unions Wednesday ramped up their threats of a strike as the MTA approved a contract with its police force that railroad labor leaders said is far more generous than what they've been offered.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board approved the seven-year MTA Police contract, which calls for annual raises totaling 17 percent. The police force patrols the LIRR and Metro-North Railroad and the two agencies' respective stations and facilities.
Meanwhile, the MTA remains at an impasse with eight LIRR unions representing about 5,600 of its 6,000 laborers, even after a board of mediators appointed by President Barack Obama last month called on the authority to grant LIRR workers raises and give up its fight for various other union concessions.
Addressing MTA board members during a Manhattan meeting Wednesday morning, Anthony Simon, general chairman of the United Transportation Union, the LIRR's largest labor organization, congratulated the police union for its "well-deserved" deal.
"But, from our point of view, this continues to be a tough thing to swallow when they claim they can't pay their remaining workforce," Simon said.
MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast said that because of some police concessions, including extending the time it takes for officers to achieve top pay and new overtime controls, the new contract will achieve the same three years of cost freezes that the MTA is seeking from LIRR unions.
Simon reiterated Wednesday that railroad unions can legally strike as early as March 21, unless the MTA requests a second Presidential Emergency Board of mediators. That would put off a strike until July.
Prendergast said Wednesday that the MTA is still "thinking through" its options, but is also preparing for a potential strike.
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