The MTA’s looming fiscal crisis could set the agency up for a confrontation with its unions, labor leaders warned on Wednesday.
“We’re not going to step up, we’re not going to open up our contracts,” Transport Workers Union international president John Samuelsen said Wednesday, minutes after city board rep Bob Lin suggested unions “need to step up to the table” and “share the burden” of possible budget cuts.
Samuelsen and his labor colleagues on the board did not take kindly to the suggestion they make more concessions as the agency tries to stave off financial collapse.
“We’ve paid with blood,” said Samuelsen, whose union, TWU Local 100, accounts for nearly two-thirds of the MTA workers killed by COVID-19.
“To come and ask us to step up by opening up our contracts or by bargaining in some concessionary fashion is just utterly unthinkable.”
Transit officials on Wednesday outlined billions of dollars in potential cuts that would need to be enacted if the federal government fails to provide $12 billion in rescue funds through the end of 2021.
The potential hits include 40 and 50 percent reductions to subway and commuter rail service, respectively, as well as a wage freeze.
TWU won a 10 percent wage increase in its most recent four-year contract, which was ratified at the beginning of this year.
Metro-North labor rep Norman Brown warned tensions were likely with or without layoffs or other wage concessions, predicting that workers sidelined during service reductions may leave the agency.
“You’re going to lose some talented people,” Brown said. “There will be a high level of bitterness among the remaining workers, as a function of having gone so quickly from being ‘essential worker heroes’ to disposable workers on the street.”
“The way we’re going now, it’s down a road of confrontation.”