NEWARK, N.J. – New Jersey commuters won’t have a New Jersey Transit strike as an excuse to miss work Monday.
The union representing the transit agency’s rail workers said Friday night that a tentative agreement has been reached, averting a strike that threatened to throw Monday’s commute into chaos for more than 100,000 riders.
Details of the tentative agreement for 4,000 unionized NJ Transit workers were not immediately released by the union or Gov. Chris Christie on Friday night.
Christie said it was done with the interest of taxpayers and fare payers in mind and that no fare hikes or service cuts are planned at least through June 2017.
NJ Transit employees have been working without a contract for nearly five years. Two emergency federal labour boards convened by President Barack Obama have leaned toward the unions’ proposals.
The unions were seeking an 18.4 per cent pay raise over seven years, plus pay retroactive to 2011. They also want health insurance costs capped at 2.5 per cent of base pay. The agency had proposed a 10.9 per cent raise over seven years and wanted workers to pay between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of their health care premium costs.
Elsewhere, in an agreement announced in New York in July 2014 between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and eight Long Island Railroad unions, LIRR workers received 17 per cent raises over 6 1/2 years, including four years of retroactive pay to the expiration of the contract in 2010. Workers agreed to contribute to their health insurance costs for the first time. New employees have different wage progressions and pension plan contributions than existing employees, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s 1,415 railroad employees received a 2 per cent raise in 2015 and will receive a 3 per cent increase in 2016. They contribute 1 per cent of their pay for a 40-hour workweek toward health insurance, SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said.
About 105,000 people commute into New York City by NJ Transit on weekdays. Officials had warned that only four in 10 would have been able to get in by extra buses that the agency was planning to deploy as a contingency. Traffic jams of 20 miles or more were possible leading to the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, traffic experts said.
NJ Transit is the largest statewide public transportation provider in the country and provides roughly 1 million passenger trips daily on rail, bus and light rail.
THE LAST STRIKE
NJ Transit had roughly 70,000 passengers when rail workers went on strike for 34 days in March 1983. At the time, NJ Transit was negotiating with unions that had represented employees who had worked for a freight railroad. When the strike ended, NJ Transit had to inspect all the signals and run trains along rails that had rusted before resuming service.
This story has been corrected to New Jersey Transit had proposed workers pay 10 per cent to 20 per cent of their health care premium costs. The agency had not proposed employees contribute 20 per cent of their base salaries toward health insurance.
Associated Press writers Ben Finley in Hamilton and Shawn Marsh in Trenton contributed to this report.