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New York transit union announces tentative contract


THE executive board for the transit workers union in New York City approved a tentative new contract, five days after it ended a paralyzing bus and subway strike that stranded millions of commuters during the holiday season.
The tentative contract, announced late Tuesday by union President Roger Toussaint, would give workers a 10.9 per cent pay raise over three years and require them to contribute to their health care plans. It still must be approved by 33,700 members of the Transport Workers Union.
Toussaint said the contract provided "for a host of other provisions that will go a long way to help in improving the relations" between transit workers and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The deal establishes a "greater degree of respect and appreciation for the sacrifices that our members undertake in this city every single day, moving over 7.0 million riders every day and waking up every morning, 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning, to make sure that this city moves," he said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg applauded both sides for hammering out the agreement and thanked New Yorkers "for their patience and cooperation during a very difficult three days."
The tentative contract "provides the necessary cost-savings and productivity to keep the MTA solvent, mitigate fare increases and allow for vital investments in our transportation infrastructure," Bloomberg said.
The union's contract expired December 16. Union leaders called the strike December 20 when talks became deadlocked over wages, pension and health care benefits. Transit workers returned to work without a contract three days later.
The shutdown of the nation's largest public transit system forced millions of daily subway and bus riders to walk, bike or squeeze aboard packed commuter train lines in the freezing cold to get around the city at the height of the holiday shopping season.
An earlier report said: Businesses lost US$1.0 billion in revenue during the three-day transit strike, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a radio address last Sunday.
Comptroller William Thompson and other officials had estimated the city economy would lose US$400 million a day during a transit strike.
Transit workers walked off the job last Tuesday, shutting down buses and subways for millions of riders. Service resumed Friday after the Transport Workers Union agreed to return to work without a contract.
The mayor said he hoped "we never have a replay" of the strike.
"This morning, thousands of hardworking New Yorkers dearly miss the wages and tips they lost during what would normally have been a busy pre-Christmas week," he said.
Bloomberg said that restaurants, museums and cultural institutions were especially hard hit and several construction sites shut down because deliveries couldn't be made through traffic-clogged streets.
The city spent US$10 million a day on police overtime and strike-related costs and lost tens of millions of dollars in sales tax revenue, the mayor said.
The day the strike ended, however, several economists said the city's cost estimate of US$400 million a day appeared too high.
Goldman Sachs economists Ed McKelvey and Sarah Aronchick said it failed to account for offsets: Some workers unable to get to work likely worked from home via computer; many people who would have shopped in the city may have turned to suburban locations; and the strike generated new kinds of economic activity, as employers rented shuttle buses and hotel rooms for workers.
Negotiations between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the TWU have continued under a media blackout since the strike ended, although negotiators were believed to be taking Christmas off. A mediator from the state Public Employment Relations Board has indicated the MTA may be willing to withdraw a demand for less generous pensions for its newer employees if the union can agree to contribute more to its health plan.