Today’s news:

MTA OKs subway worker pay raise

Only two weeks after MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger warned the agency was barely balancing its budget, labor arbitrators have ordered pay raises for subway workers that transit officials say could imperil the agency’s finances.

“This arbitration award for Transit Workers Union Local 100 that includes wage increases of more than 11 percent over three years [2009-11] is extremely disappointing and fails to recognize the economic recession in the region and the impact of this downtown on the MTA,” said Metropolitan Transportation Authority interim Executive Director Helena Williams. “There will be a significant impact on the MTA’s bottom line.”

Williams said “as a further disappointment, the award also rolls back a portion of the employees’ health care contribution that the MTA won following the 2005 TWU strike. The award suggests that the MTA raid its underfunded capital program and rely on one-shot federal stimulus funds to pay for raises.”

But Williams said no fare increase was planned to help cover the cost of the raises, which will go to the New York City Transit Authority’s nearly 36,000 workers.

“The MTA staff will provide the MTA Board with recommendations for balancing the financial plan with the least-possible impact on MTA customers. No additional fare increase will be recommended in 2009.”

On July 29, Hemmerdinger announced at the monthly MTA Board meeting that “the news is that we are balancing our budget on the head of a pin.”

“If the wind doesn’t blow too hard, we might just make it through,” Hemmerdinger said.

The MTA budget for 2010 includes no fare increases or cuts in bus, subway or commuter railroad service.

On the other hand, revenue from taxes and fees from real estate transactions on which the MTA had drawn profound benefits for years, are way down. And the numbers of riders of subways and buses have fallen by 3 percent over the past year.

Transit Workers union representatives had expressed the workers’ pay raise would match that of city government employees, which it did, with the workers emphasizing that thousands of members of subway track gangs daily endure hazardous conditions in a dark netherworld beneath city streets.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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