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NYC transit strike averted

Toussaint and Kalikow embrace after announcing the deal.
Toussaint and Kalikow embrace after announcing the deal.

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New York City transit workers reached a tentative labor deal, averting a shutdown of subways and buses that threatened to cripple the city. CNN's Bob Franken reports (December 17)
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- After days of intense negotiations, New York City transit workers and their management late Monday reached a tentative labor deal, averting a subway- and bus-service shutdown that threatened to cripple the city.

The deal gives the 34,000 members of the Transport Workers Union a $1,000 lump sum payment in the first year of the contract, instead of a raise. In the next two years, the workers will get 3 percent raises, officials on both sides said.

That wage package is far short of what the union had hoped to get. Union members had sought 6 percent raises for each of the next three years.

Union President Roger Toussaint said the new deal gives workers significant advantages in other areas, such as better health benefits.

The deal now goes to the union's executive board for approval and then to the rank-and-file.

"We are very confident that this package will meet with the approval of the members," Toussaint said. "It answers many of their needs, many of their urgent pleas, especially in the area of health coverage."

Peter Kalikow, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, hailed the deal, saying "today marks a turning point in the relationship of the MTA and its unions."

"We want to go from confrontation to cooperation," Kalikow said. "We want our members and our workers to have health care, we want our members to get wages and improvements based on productivity. Most of all, we want our workers to be treated with dignity."

Negotiators were able to "stop the clock" late Sunday to avert a possible strike that would have left millions of riders stranded, the union's secretary treasurer said. The union agreed to continue talking as long as there were constructive negotiations.

A judge Friday issued an injunction preventing the transit workers from striking Monday if a contract was not reached, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city would take legal action to enforce that injunction if workers walked out.

He even threatened to fine the union and its local chapter each $1 million a day, and fine each striking worker $25,000 -- a fine that would double for each day the strike dragged on.

With more than 7 million riders a day on New York City subways and buses, the city had prepared contingency plans that included special regulation of streets, restricting some bridges and tunnels to high-occupancy vehicles only, temporary bans on construction and some truck deliveries, arranging carpool staging areas, and allowing group rides in taxis.

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