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NJ Transit Chief Says no Lockout Planned, Fare Increase Possible

Thursday, March 10, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 3/9/2016

The head of NJ Transit said Wednesday (March 9) that the agency does not plan to lockout rail workers if it can’t come to terms with their unions, setting aside an option that Gov. Chris Christie had kept available two days earlier. “We have no plans for a lockout,” interim executive director Dennis Martin told reporters after the agency’s monthly meeting on Wednesday (March 9). Christie had said Monday (March 7) he didn’t want to take any tools off the table, including a potential lockout. The railroad and 11 unions are engaged in protracted contract negotiations that could come to a head this week. A cooling off period will end at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, allowing the 4,200 rail workers to go on strike if a deal isn’t reached. The two sides have been unable to agree on wages, healthcare premiums and the length of the new contract and won’t discuss the details of the various offers being considered. It’s unclear how much the new contract would cost. A proposal recommended by an emergency negotiations board appointed by President Barack Obama- and rejected by NJ Transit- would have cost about $183 million. Martin said he couldn’t “rule out” the possibility of a fare increase to pay for the costs of new contracts for the unions, which had their last bargaining agreements expire in 2011. Fares were increased by 9 percent last year on NJ Transit trains and busses. Both sides said they made progress on Tuesday (March 8) and plan to meet again Thursday to go over several offers and counter offers that are on the table. The unions say it could be the day a deal gets done. NJ Transit has drawn up contingency plans in case the railroad shuts down, but agency officials have said they can accommodate only about 38 percent of the 105,000 daily commuters to New York City. An additional 55,000 daily riders would also have no option. The resulting increase in traffic could cause 25-mile backups on state highways, officials said.

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