Union Negotiator Says Deal Near to Avert Long Island Rail Road Strike

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The chief union negotiator says they are "very, very close" to averting a weekend strike at the nation's largest commuter railroad.

    Anthony Simon spoke Thursday before heading into another round of talks with Gov. Cuomo and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the Long Island Rail Road.

    "We're going in because we need the governor to step in, listen to the negotiations, negotiate, hear what we have to say and hopefully rectify this," Simon said outside Cuomo's office Thursday. "We're not there yet ... but we're closer."

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    "The governor has taken an executive role and he has stepped up and has complete communications with us and myself, and the governor and I think that's going to make a tremendous, tremendous difference by the end of today," Simon added.

    Cuomo released a statement saying he began participating directly because the talks had not been progressing. He said the discussions Wednesday went late into the night.

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    Cuomo says everything must be done to prevent the railroad's 300,000 daily riders "from being held hostage" by a strike, set for 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

    The railroad's 5,400 workers have been without a contract since 2010. President Obama appointed two emergency boards to help resolve the dispute, but the MTA rejected both nonbinding recommendations. The emergency board's last proposal called for a 17 percent raise over six years while leaving work rules and pensions alone.

    The MTA offered a 17 percent wage increase over seven years, but also wants pension and health care concessions, which both sides agree is the sticking point holding up an agreement.

    MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast has said his negotiators are trying to find an agreement that would avoid a potential rate increase in the future.