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There may not be light at the end of the tunnel in the ongoing labor impasse between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and unions representing Long Island Railroad workers.
The Long Island Railroad rolled closer to a possible summer strike Wednesday when transit executives rejected a proposed series of raises for workers.
MTA Labor Relations Director Anita Miller notified the National Mediation Board that the authority would not enact a contract settlement for the commuter railroad that was crafted by an independent panel. Simona€™s union is one of eight representing LIRR workers that are involved in the labor showdown with MTA brass. The MTA, meanwhile, all but accused the unions of being indifferent to the possibility that the raises sought would necessarily result in fares being increased to levels higher than that which the authority has already planned. Federal law says commuter railroad workers can legally walk off the job if a contract deal is not reached after a lengthy process involving negotiations, mediation and mandatory a€?cooling offa€? periods.
On Wednesday, transit executives rejected a proposed series of raises for workers, marking the latest failure in the negotiating process. In December, a Presidential Emergency Board formed to avert a LIRR walkout recommended the MTA raise workersa€™ pay by an average of 2.85% a year for six years.
The proposal didna€™t include any work-rule changes that the MTA sought in order to curb resulting expenses.
The panel had decided that the MTA can grant a€?modesta€? pay increases without impacting the safety and quality of LIRR service.

MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast and other officials, however, have insisted the authoritya€™s finances are fragile. The MTA also has argued that workers should a€?sacrifice,a€? as riders have done by absorbing a series of fare hikes in recent years. A partial copy of the transcript shows Roth was referencing a union exhibit that apparently listed fares over many years, with inflation factored in, to demonstrate the per-rider expense in present-day dollars. Speaking at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority boarda€™s monthly meeting Wednesday, Mitchell Pally described Pennsylvania Station as a a€?disgracea€? in comparison to Grand Central Terminal. Pally trashed Penn Station just before the board approved a plan for a renowned European chef and restaurateur Claus Meyer to open a Nordic brasserie and food court at Grand Centrala€™s Vanderbilt Hall, which was formerly the terminala€™s main waiting room.
Riders on Metro-North Rail Road, which runs through Grand Central, on Manhattana€™s East Side, will be shocked when another MTA plan a€” to bring select Metro-North trains into Penn Station, on the West Side a€” becomes a reality, Pally said. Grand Central first opened as a train station in 1871, but the current building, built in the Beaux-Arts style, made its debut in 1913.
The original Penn Station, on the other hand, dated from the same era as Grand Central a€” built in 1910, also in the Beaux-Arts tradition a€” but was demolished in the 1960s. The MTA hired a construction firm in 2012 to craft a report on how to improve commuter traffic through Penn, enhance the terminala€™s overall appearance, and upgrade its dining and shopping options. The plan to bring Metro-North service into Penn Station would route some trains on the railroada€™s New Haven line into Penn Station via tracks and tunnels now used by Amtrak.
The MTAa€™s East Side Access Project will bring LIRR trains into a new terminal underneath Grand Central, giving commuters direct access to the East Side a€” and a respite from Penn Station.
The move prompted an angry response from a top union leader representing LIRR workers, who have labored without a contract since 2010. Workers have been laboring without a contract since 2010 -- and without one, a summer strike is a possibility.

But workers for the first time would have been required to help pay their healthcare premiums. It considered the cost of living in the New York City region and the pay afforded LIRR employees compared to those of other commuter railroads. It can only grant raises that are paid for by work-rule or benefit changes that would generate savings, officials have said.
During the hearings, that expert, Tom Roth, said: a€?The passengers have had a good run at the MTA, and it is about time the fares went up,a€? according to Miller's testimony. The MTA revised the projecta€™s construction timeline and anticipated cost earlier this year. The contributions for healthcare would have increased during the six years of the pact and eventually arrived at 2.5% of earnings, excluding overtime, in the final year. It also considered the increased revenues the MTA receives as a result of the 2009 bailout package from the state, which included new taxes and fees for transit operations. Otherwise, the MTA will have to raise fares higher than already planned or scale back its construction and maintenance programs. It has become a tourist destination as well as a commuter train terminal, boasting a host of popular restaurants and shops.

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