Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Transit Union Discusses Possible Work Stoppage

The Port Authority's transit union says there could be a work stoppage December 1. Patrick McMahon, President of Local 85 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, says there is a very strong possibility of a work stoppage because the Port Authority is forcing the union down that path. He says December 1, 2008, is the date that the authority wants to impose a contract on the workers. McMahon says if anything would happen on that date, the union believes legally it would be a lockout on behalf of the Port Authority. He says that's because PAT changed the terms and conditions of employment.

McMahon says the union is looking into its legal options and seeing how they will address this. He says the Port Authority has "painted the union into a corner" where it looks like they'll be forced into a work stoppage. But he says Local 85 has some charges filed with the State Labor Relations Board and they are looking into some kind of court action if the Port Authority goes through with imposing a contract on the drivers. McMahon says the union has written a letter to the Port Authority and its legal counsel explaining that they don't believe there is an impasse and they should probably get back to the table for a resolution to their contract dispute. But according to McMahon, "the Port Authority is not interested in doing that." McMahon says he intends to schedule a meeting soon with the union leadership.

Steve Bland, the Port Authority's CEO, says any work stoppage would be the union's choice, not his. He says a strike would "blatantly and callously disregard the needs of our customers and the community at large." Bland disagrees with McMahon's contention that the contract that will be imposed December 1st amounts to a lockout. He says the new contract gives drivers a 70-cent increase in wages and allow the agency to cut costs in the long-term. Regarding additional bargaining, Bland says the Port Authority has offered to discuss terms of how to implement next month's contract but has heard no response from Local 85. The Port Authority's board voted last month to impose the contract after Bland said negotiations had reached an impasse.

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