Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Daily News Says TWU/MTA Set To Agree To Contract Deal

As a member of the UFT, I don't like this rumored contract deal between the TWU and the MTA much at all:

Transit Union leaders will convene today and possibly accept a new contract - which would put an end to the labor strife that led to a three-day strike.

Sources said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Transport Workers Union Local 100 are close to a three-year pact that calls for raises of 3%, 4% and 4% for its 33,700 workers.

The framework of the deal would require all workers to contribute toward health insurance, but would not change the existing pension plan or retirement age, sources said.

While health care costs would rise, retirees would see improved health coverage, sources said.

The local's executive board has been told to report to its headquarters on West End Ave. today. It must approve any potential pact and call a ratification vote by members.


Union leader Roger Toussaint can say he held the line on pensions; he was vehemently opposed to raising the retirement age from 55 to 62, and fought raising pension contributions for new hires.

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow can point to the workers' first-ever contribution to health premiums. Transit officials have said pension and health care costs are soaring, and that without workers paying for some of their costs, fares could rise.


The pension issue was the biggest stumbling block to a deal. The union wanted to drop the retirement age from 55 to 50, while the MTA wanted it raised to 62 for new workers.

The agency also wanted new hires to fork over 3% of wages for retirement plans, up from 2% given by current workers.

That change would save the MTA relatively little money in the short term. Toussaint and other labor leaders saw it as an attempt to set a precedent so municipal unions could be pressured to accept similar concessions.

Transit workers also abhor the idea of an older retirement age because of the health risks, emotional and physical, that come with their jobs: inhaling bus fumes, working inches from the subway's electrified third rail in the subways, having people regularly jump onto the tracks to commit suicide and toiling every day in a terrorist target.

A new pension scheme for new hires also could split the union into two camps, union members feared.

The union initially sought three straight years of 8% raises, while the MTA at first offered a two-year pact amounting to a 5% wage increase, some of which was only guaranteed if sick time taken was reduced.

Bus drivers, the largest job title, have a starting salary of about $35,000 a year and a top salary, not including overtime, of about $50,000. Including scheduled overtime, the base pay rises to about $58,500.

Here's my problem with the contract:

By agreeing to have employees contribute part of their salaries to health care costs, Toussaint and the TWU have opened the doors to having employees carry much or most of the burden themselves in the near future.

Employee contributions to health care costs will start out at 2% or 3%.

Then in the next contract the the employee contribution will be 5% or 6%.

Then 10%. Then 15%. And so on...

Now I know my friends in the private sector will say they are paying something for their health care, why shouldn't public employees pay something for their health care?

But the private sector employees I know who are paying for part of their health care have a much better plan than GHI, the city plan.

Also, the environment and conditions public employees work in tend to be much harsher than private sector work environments and conditions.

Take the subways, for instance. How many private sector employees (e.g., Citibank, Morgan Stanley, General Mills, etc.) work in an environment loaded with rats, sewage, dirt, lead, asbestos, noise, and potential crime?

How much do you want to make a bet some of those problems I listed above contribute to medical conditions that some subway workers suffer from?

As a New York City public school teacher, I have been exposed to both asbestos (a custodian found an old, crumbling asbestos blanket in my classroom last year) and mold (which I am allergic to). I am also exposed to a shitload of dust on a daily basis (another allergen for me.) The heat in the building is so god awful hot and dry that I have begun to suffer from excema on my arms, shoulders, and hands.

I will not say that these conditions have been completely caused by the conditions and environment I am exposed to on a daily basis as a public school teacher, but they certainly are exacerbated by them. And interestingly enough, when I am on vacation for any extended period of time, my mold and dust allergies and my excema get much better. Coincidence? Maybe, but probably not.

Yet, the city thinks I should carry some of the burden of my health care costs despite the fact that the city doesn't want to provide safe, clean and health working and teaching environments for teachers and children.

I have an idea for future contract negotiations with the city that I think should solve this problem over employee-funded health care contributions

Let's tie employee contributions to health care costs to city contributions to safe, clean, and healthy working conditions.

As soon as the city provides safe, clean, and healthy work environments for its employees, we'll pick up a percentage of our health care costs.

Now that's a deal I'd sign up for.

I agree completely. It's very sad their walkout, ultimately, achieved little if anything. These concessions will be greedily seized upon by Bloomberg, and our entrenched, tired, self-serving union is likely to bend over again crying, "Thank you, sir! May I have another?"
Yeah, if the TWU agrees to start paying for their own health care, our next contract will be a total concession to Mayor Moneybags or whatever GOP successor follows him.

Should be fun to figure out what kind of spin Randi, Unity, and the Edwize wankers offer for the health care concessions they plan on making in two plus years.

We can start a "concession spin" pool and take bets on the whole charade.
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