MTA Chairman Says He was Wrong in Making Pension Demands

January 5, 2006 ( - Chairman of the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), Peter Kalikow, said he was wrong in making pension demands a central focus of recent contract negotiations with transit workers.

“I put out a proposal that I thought would be most palatable to the union, and it turns out I was wrong,” he said in an interview, the New York Times reports. The demand for future transit workers to pay more towards their pensions than workers are currently paying led to a 60-hour transit strike in December.

The MTA agreed to compromise and the strike ended. The proposed contract does not include the pension demands, but calls for workers to contribute for the first time toward their health insurance premiums (See Compromise Reached in NYC Transit Workers Contract).

Kalikow said that the health insurance provision was more valuable than the previous pension demands, according to the Times. However, he did say that, “Health care and pensions, to me, are two sides of the same coin. They’re both of them running out of control, and I think we need to start making an effort to limit their growth.”

The proposed contract is still facing opposition, though, due to a provision giving 20,000 workers refunds of prior pension contributions (See Contract Fight not over for NYC Transit Workers ). Governor George Pataki has twice vetoed such a provision, and is unhappy with a side agreement demanded by the transit workers’ union that would require the MTA to pay members $131.7 million even if state capital officials in Albany blocked the refunds.

Kalikow said though that he thinks the deal is good, but may not present it to the MTA board for vote until the union ratifies it. Meanwhile, the union is saying it may delaying voting on the agreement until the board’s vote scheduled for January 25.