Andrew Cuomo Announces LIRR Strike Has Been Averted

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Photo: Getty Images)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Photo: Getty Images)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this afternoon that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Long Island Rail Road unions have averted a strike, avoiding what was expected to be a significant headache for commuters, businesses and elected officials.

Mr. Cuomo announced the deal in Manhattan with MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast and Anthony Simon, the head of the LIRR’s unions. Both sides heaped praise on the governor, who swooped in at the last minute to help hammer out a deal.

“If the Long Island Rail Road goes down, all of Long Island suffers,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Next week if there was a strike it would have been really a problematic situation on the highest levels.”

LIRR employees were threatening to strike as soon as Sunday, impacting the commute of many thousands of people in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Negotiations collapsed in recent days and Mr. Cuomo kept his distance from the dispute for some time, telling reporters that it would be Congress’ responsibility to help avert a strike.

But when the area’s congressional delegation told Mr. Cuomo they could do little in Washington, the governor, seeking re-election this year, swiftly changed course. The LIRR workers and the MTA were fighting over a new contract: the unions wanted 17 percent raises over six rather than seven years, but a main sticking point was whether future LIRR employees had to contribute to health insurance and pensions.

The two sides met in Mr. Cuomo’s office to reach an agreement. Details of the arrangement were not immediately disclosed, but Mr. Cuomo said they were similar to what federal mediators recommended. The contract will last six and a half years, he said, and there will be certain concessions on healthcare contributions.

“Let me say a special thanks to Gov. Cuomo for stepping up and at a time when we really needed a leader to step up and get involved in the negotiations, a no nonsense leader,” Mr. Simon said.

Mr. Prendergast insisted the agreement was “fair and reasonable.”

“The agreement reached today provides a fair and reasonable contract,” he said. “Wages that are employees deserve, hard-working employees that need to be able to stay where they need to be financially and a way that protects commuters as well as the long-term fiscal stability of the MTA which is exceptionally important to us.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Cuomo ally, had planned a vacation with his family to Italy that would have coincided with a strike. Mr. de Blasio repeatedly downplayed the impact of a potential strike and wouldn’t promise to cancel his vacation.

“He can take his vacation to Italy. I hope he enjoys it. I’m a tad envious to tell you the truth,” Mr. Cuomo said.