Both Sides Talking Again in NYC Transit Strike

December 22, 2005 ( - Both sides in the increasingly bitter New York City transit strike agreed to get the giant bus and train system moving again Thursday while they resumed talking about pension issues and other matters.

The tentative deal came without the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) pulling the controversial pension proposal that helped spark the walkout in the first place. Richard Curreri, head of a three-member state mediation panel, said the MTA “has informed us it has not withdrawn its pension proposals but nevertheless is willing to discuss whether adequate savings can be found in the area of health costs.”

A day earlier, a key union official insisted the MTA’s pension proposal was the deal breaker for workers. “Were it not for the pension piece, we would not be out on strike,” Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Roger Toussaint said in an interview with New York-based all-news channel NY1, the Associated Press reported. “All it [the MTA] needs to do is take its pension proposal off the table.”

According to Toussaint, the sticking point came when the MTA’s last contract proposed maintaining a retirement age of 55 but increasing what new hires contribute to the pension plan. New employees would pay 6% of their wages during their first 10 years, rather than the current 2%.

As the strike proceeded through a second day Wednesday, state Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones ordered Toussaint and two of his deputies to court Thursday morning to face criminal contempt charges for ordering the illegal walkout.

Lawyers for the city began a separate legal proceeding to turn the financial screws on rank-and-file union members, a move that could bring them to court to face charges of civil contempt.

Michael Cardozo, New York City’s corporation counsel, asked Jones to issue a second order directing union members to return to work. If such an order were ignored, Cardozo said the city could ask for heavy fines per worker – a punishment beyond the docked-pay penalty workers already face.