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June 17, 2019

Track changes: As New Yorkers as asked to dig deeper to fund subway repairs, the MTA and transit workers must find sane savings

May 15, 2019
Fare deals, fair savings — for the union and the public. (Jesse Ward/for New York Daily News)

The 40,000 women and men of Transport Workers Union Local 100 move New York. As the city’s front-line on the subway and buses, they do the hard, dirty, often thankless, sometimes dangerous work of keeping the city going. They’ve earned our thanks.

Their contract expires at midnight, and while once the mantra of former boss Mike Quill and his successors was “no contract, no work,” Local 100 President Tony Utano and his predecessor John Samuelsen (now international president) have avoided damaging strikes.

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The anticipated 2% annual raises budgeted by the MTA are fair, but with labor costs comprising two-thirds of the Transit Authority’s growing expenses, Gov. Cuomo and his appointees must do more.

That goes beyond cracking down on overtime abuses or no shows, which Cuomo has been railing on and on about in recent days, as though they represent the core problem.

Nonsense. Where there is outright fraud, root it out; criminality, no matter how infrequent, sullies the overwhelming majority of honest workers.

But substantial savings aren’t coming from curbing payroll padding; they’re coming from implementing innovations that enable more labor flexibility and encourage efficiency, without sacrificing safety or decent wages and benefits.

The last time the transit contract was negotiated, there were no concessions or work-rule changes or higher health-care payments. As the subway embarks on a major rebuilding, asking for average New Yorkers to dig deeper into their pockets with higher fares and congestion pricing, the same old way is not sustainable.

The brand new signalling on the No. 7 allows for robot trains, just like the L, but both lines continue to use two operators. How about looking at running some trains with a single person? The union is so against it that they got the state Senate last year to vote unanimously to require two people. Puh-leaze.

And why is the TWU contract the only one which grants members their birthdays off as a paid holiday? Double puh-leaze.

Of course, workers have legitimate gripes, including excessive and petty discipline. Address those in the bargain, while once and for all shaking off the delusion that you can build a 21st-century transit system with hidebound work rules.

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