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Buses, subways on the move again in New York

Transit workers end strike as talks continue

Subway conductor Michael G. Jackson gets rolling early Friday. "I'm just glad to be working," he said.



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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Buses and subways in New York City were on the move again early Friday after the city's 33,000 mass transit workers returned to their posts following a three-day strike, although negotiations with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority continue.

Officials said bus and subway service would be in full swing for rush hour commuters.

On Thursday, Roger Toussaint, president of the Transport Workers Union, Local 100, said the mass transit workers will return to their jobs running subways and buses "right away."

"We will be providing various details regarding the outcome of this strike in the next several days," he told reporters outside union headquarters. (Watch as the end of the strike is announced -- 1:26)

The TWU issued directions for workers telling them to report to work immediately if their shift had started, and otherwise to report at their scheduled times.

"Hold your head high when you report to work," the statement advised.

Toussaint's comments came after the executive board of the TWU, acting on a recommendation from union leaders, voted to send transit workers back to work while talks continue with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The vote was 36-5 with two abstentions, two board members told CNN.

Toussaint and other union leaders made the recommendation Thursday morning, according to the chief state mediator for the talks, Richard Curreri.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had taken a hard line against union leaders for calling the strike, was glad to see the walkout end.

"I'm pleased that the TWU executive board has followed the recommendations of its leadership and the New York State mediators and voted to return to work," Bloomberg said. "In the end, cooler heads prevailed."

The strike, which began early Tuesday, shut down the nation's largest public transportation system and created headaches for 7 million bus and subway riders.

"The union leadership hurt this city," Bloomberg said. "The rank-and-file acted responsibly."

Thursday evening, State Justice Theodore Jones, who had penalized the union for violating the Taylor Law -- which prohibits strikes by state and city employees -- adjourned legal proceedings before him, including the city's request for a restraining order, until Jan. 20.

"I am pleased on behalf of the people of the city of New York," Jones said in a written statement. "Indeed, hopefully, we'll be able to salvage Christmas and hopefully be able to get back on track."

He added: "I want these negotiations to take place in an atmosphere in which the court is not perceived to be influential to either side."

He did not say whether the $1 million-a-day fine he imposed on the union Tuesday would be waived.

The back-to-work order angered some union members, including some on the executive board.

"I am absolutely flabbergasted by the turn of events, and I was one of the five that voted no. This is an absolute betrayal of the New York City labor movement," said executive board member George Perlstein.

He said he was against negotiating with mediators until the strike was over.

"We had them at a stranglehold. I do not understand the concept of giving up the stranglehold for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to put a stranglehold on us," he added. "It's unconscionable to my members."

John Mooney, vice president of TWU, complained that Toussaint had refused to answer his questions about possible amnesty for fines imposed on the union.

"We're going back to work with no details," Mooney said.

Bloomberg declined to speculate on what will happen to fines against the union and workers, and any chances for amnesty.

In addition to the fine levied against the union by Jones -- which now amounts to $3 million, just about what the union has in the bank -- issues needing resolution include the pending contempt citation against TWU leaders, including Toussaint; the threat of jail time for missing a Wednesday court appearance; and the city's motion for additional civil penalties.

Earlier Thursday, Curreri said mediators had met separately "over the last 48 hours" with TWU leadership and representatives of the MTA, and the talks had been "fruitful."

One key issue -- the union's pension plan -- will remain on the table, Curreri said. Earlier, Toussaint had said taking the plan off the table would "go a long way" toward bringing the union back to the talks.

But, the mediator said, the MTA had agreed to look at the possibility of finding cost cuts in the health-care arena.

Union members are seeking raises, improved health plans and a stronger pension fund, which faces a $1 billion shortfall, according to its leaders.

Under an MTA proposal, new employees would contribute 6 percent of their salaries to their pension funds, instead of the current 2 percent. The MTA withdrew a proposal to increase the retirement age from 55 to 62.

The city expected to lose another $300 million in revenues Thursday, bringing the total loss for the strike to $1 billion, according to Jeff Simmons, spokesman for NYC Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr.

The strike forced millions of people to adopt creative ways of getting around -- or simply abandon plans altogether. Even cabdrivers complained that despite the higher fares they can charge, they spend much of their time stuck in traffic jams throughout the city. (Read the latest commuters' e-mails)

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