July 16, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Correction: In the video introduction, said reporter says that the union offered up $100 million in concessions to the presidential emergency board, when in fact the board suggested to the union $100 million less to resolve the contract dispute, which the union accpted.
Babylon, NY—The head of the Long Island Railroad unions accused the MTA of provoking a strike so that it can break the unions representing over 5,000 workers on the railroad.
Anthony Simon, chairperson of District 1 for the transport division of the Sheet, Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union, strongly believes that.
“They [MTA] have every way to prevent it. They said they can afford the presidential emergency board’s [recommendations]. Their savings aren’t going to be realized until 20 years from now. So you are going to take on a strike today for something you can save in 20 years. That’s absolutely a bad strategy,” said Simon.
It was on Thursday afternoon, after negotiating for five hours, that both Mr. Simon and the MTA’s CEO, Tom Prendergast, said that they would continue negotiating the union’s counter-offer.
Mr. Prendergast said then that the MTA would have more discussions with the union to try to reach a resolution. But then on Monday, the MTA said there were no negotiations to have because the union “hasn’t moved at all.”
Simon said that he stayed in the city over the weekend waiting for a call from the MTA that never came.
“I stayed in the city at the Hilton after Thursday to wait for them to call us, but no call ever came. Three days went by without any talks at all. Then on Monday [we met at 12 noon] and it was all but 45 minutes and the MTA rejected our counter without even countering on our counter. That’s no way to negotiate,” Simon said.
President Barak Obama convened two presidential emergency boards to help both sides resolve the contract dispute. Both boards ruled that the union’s offer for a settlement was fair, but the MTA rejected both. According to Simon, the board offered up $100 million in concessions which the union accepted, but still talks have failed.
Simon said the MTA wouldn’t provide the exact number it needs to save during negotiations.
“That’s the problem. The MTA hasn’t given us their outnumber. They keep holding that back. Where’s that target, they keep moving that target. You can’t hit a moving target,” said Simon.
Asked what he would like to say to the riding public on Long Island, Simon asked to consider the union’s position.
“Believe what the unions are saying and then look back at what the MTA has been saying for four years and then go back and see how many times they have changed their course of action, reasoning and strategy,” Simon said.