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The Latest: NJ Transit, unions reach deal to avert strike

NEWARK, N.J. – The Latest on negotiations aimed at preventing a strike by New Jersey Transit rail workers (all times local):

7 p.m.

New Jersey Transit and its rail workers have reached a tentative deal to avert a strike that would have thrown Monday’s commute into New York into chaos.

The agency reached a contract Friday with railroad workers who had threatened to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. The settlement culminates a dispute that has been percolating for nearly five years, when the last contract expired.

The unions had been seeking a 2.9 per cent annual wage increase over six years plus an increase in health insurance payments from 1.8 per cent to 2 per cent of straight pay. NJ Transit offered average 1.4 per cent wage increases and health insurance payments, rising from 10 per cent to 20 per cent.

About 105,000 people commute into New York by train each weekday, either on NJ Transit or in combination with PATH.

4 p.m.

Talks between New Jersey Transit and its railroad workers unions are continuing as riders head home on a final rush-hour commute before a threatened Sunday morning strike.

Neither side has publicly commented since NJ Transit special counsel Gary Dellaverson said Friday morning that “today’s the day” to hammer out a deal.

Dellaverson said he felt there’s no reason the parties shouldn’t be able to reach an agreement Friday.

The unions have authorized a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

Wages and the cost that employees contribute for health benefits remain sticking points.

Union officials were angered when NJ Transit sent notice to union-covered employees that their health benefits would end if they strike.

NJ Transit says the notice is required under federal law.

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10:55 a.m.

Talks have resumed between negotiators for New Jersey Transit and its railroad workers unions aimed at reaching an agreement to prevent a strike for the nation’s third-largest commuter railroad.

NJ Transit special counsel Gary Dellaverson told reporters, “Today’s the day” as he arrived. Dellaverson says he feels there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to reach an agreement Friday.

The unions have authorized a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

Wages and the cost that employees contribute for health benefits remain sticking points.

Union officials were angered when NJ Transit sent notice to union-covered employees that their health benefits would end if they strike.

NJ Transit says the notice is required under federal law.

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9:45 a.m.

Commuters and businesses are bracing for the worst as negotiators for rail unions and New Jersey Transit meet to try and avert a weekend strike.

More than 100,000 commuters use NJ Transit to get into New York City, and the transit agency says its contingency plan using extra buses will only be able to accommodate about 40,000 riders.

In New York, a business group has estimated that each hour the rails are shut will cost businesses about $6 million.

NJ Transit has estimated that a one-hour commute by train would more than double.

Negotiators are meeting in Newark to try to reach agreement on wage increases and health care costs.

The unions have authorized a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Sunday. Workers have been without a contract for five years.