Bloomberg Flip-Flops on MTA Pay Raises: Union

Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly bashed the MTA after it approved pay hikes for transit workers last week, despite backing the raises in private conversations last year, according to the head of the labor union.

The MTA and the labor union negotiated a deal that would provide back-to-back 4 percent pay increases for employees; reducing workers' healthcare contributions was also part of the bargain. The new labor-friendly deal would cost the agency, which has been begging for bailout money and raising fares, an additional $350 million a year.

Bloomberg, who has made improving mass transit a cornerstone of his mayoral campaign, berated the agency after it announced the agreement, saying the wage hikes would take money away from bettering service.

Hey, wait a minute. That's not fair, says outgoing Transport Workers Union president Rouger Toussaint.

Touissant argues the mayor expressed his support for the back-to-back raises – a sticking point in a harsh contract dispute -- in a telephone conversation last October.

"I spoke directly to the mayor … about his view of two 4 percent raises for transit workers, and he told me that he was in favor of such raises," Toussaint told The New York Post.

The mayor told him at least three times that he had no problem with the back-to-back hikes, Touissant told The New York Times. Two other people close to the negotiations also remembered Bloomberg's aides hinting that the mayor supported the pay increases.

Bloomberg's office denied the mayor ever indicated his approval – tacit or otherwise – for a deal that would've further debilitated the MTA's weak bank account.

While acknowledging the phone call with Touissant indeed happened, Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna says the union leader's recollection is wrong, reports the Times.

"No one should be fooled by this revisionist history," LaVorgna said in a statement. "The administration's message was clear and consistent throughout: We would not support a labor settlement the MTA couldn't afford."

The city doesn't get a seat at the table at contract talks, but Bloomberg's approval is of critical influence, since the MTA is partly under the city's control. Bloomberg had already granted 4 percent annual raises to many of the major unions representing city workers, reports the Times, which set the stage for transit employees to demand the same.

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