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LIRR Strike Averted With Deal That Includes Healthcare Contributions

By  Trevor Kapp Nicole Bode and Colby Hamilton | July 17, 2014 12:49pm | Updated on July 17, 2014 6:20pm

 Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an agreement between the LIRR and its unions that was reached in time to avert a strike.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an agreement between the LIRR and its unions that was reached in time to avert a strike.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

MIDTOWN — A looming Long Island Rail Road strike was averted on Thursday after the unions reached an agreement with the Metropolitan Transit Authority to have workers contribute to their health insurance, union officials and Governor Andrew Cuomo announced.

The deal came just days before the strike was set to kick off just after midnight Sunday and followed years of wrangling and failed starts between the sides.

“It’s my pleasure to announce today that we have settled a four-year dispute dealing with these Long Island Rail Road labor unions and an agreement with the LIRR and the MTA," Cuomo said at a press conference alongside United Transport Union president Anthony Simon and MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast.

The agreement came less than a day after the Governor stepped into the negotiations, calling both sides to his Manhattan office for continued discussions.

"There's no doubt there was a very wide gulf that had to be crossed," said Cuomo, "There was a huge amount of agita over the past few days, for those of you that know what agita means... the good news is there would have been a lot more agita next week."

The 6 1/2-year deal includes a 17 percent wage increase and first time healthcare contributions — without raising fares.

"This definitely is a fair contract. It’s a compromise by all parties," said Simon, who acted as the lead negotiator for the eight LIRR unions. He said the unions would be reaching out to the 5,400 workers to explain the deals to them first before making details public. "We're comfortable our members will support it," Simon added.

Among the compromises in the deal include changes to new LIRR employees' contracts, giving them different pay raises and pension plan contributions than existing staffers, officials said. For the first time, transit employees will be asked to contribute to their healthcare costs, at two percent. Future employees will see that rate increased to four percent.

Prendergast called the agreement "a fair and reasonable contract" that provides "wages that our employees deserve … in a way that protects the commuter as well as the long term fiscal stability of the MTA."

"This is a contract we know the board will support."

The potential fiscal impact of a strike was estimated at $50 million a day, according to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The agreement averts a planned strike, which could have stranded up to 300,000 daily commuters.