The Latest: Christie says deal good for commuters, taxpayers

AP News
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Posted: Mar 11, 2016 9:21 PM
The Latest: Christie says deal good for commuters, taxpayers

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The Latest on negotiations aimed at preventing a strike by New Jersey Transit rail workers (all times local):

7:30 p.m.

Gov. Chris Christie says that New Jersey Transit settled its contract with its rail workers unions with the interest of taxpayers and fare payers in mind.

Christie said Friday that the tentative agreement must still be ratified by the more than 4,000 members of the unions.

The deal avoids a strike that would have thrown Monday's commute into New York into chaos.

Christie says good faith negotiations were maintained throughout the talks and that the agreement is longer than a recommendation made by a presidential board.

He did not release other details of the agreement. He says the union needs an opportunity to release information to its members first.

About 105,000 people commute into New York by train each weekday, either on NJ Transit or in combination with PATH.

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7 p.m.

New Jersey Transit and its rail workers have reached a tentative deal to avert a strike that would have thrown Monday's commute into New York into chaos.

The agency reached a contract Friday with railroad workers who had threatened to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. The settlement culminates a dispute that has been percolating for nearly five years, when the last contract expired.

The unions had been seeking a 2.9 percent annual wage increase over six years plus an increase in health insurance payments from 1.8 percent to 2 percent of straight pay. NJ Transit offered average 1.4 percent wage increases and health insurance payments and proposed workers pay between 10 percent and 20 percent of their health care premium costs.

About 105,000 people commute into New York by train each weekday, either on NJ Transit or in combination with PATH.

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4 p.m.

Talks between New Jersey Transit and its railroad workers unions are continuing as riders head home on a final rush-hour commute before a threatened Sunday morning strike.

Neither side has publicly commented since NJ Transit special counsel Gary Dellaverson said Friday morning that "today's the day" to hammer out a deal.

Dellaverson said he felt there's no reason the parties shouldn't be able to reach an agreement Friday.

The unions have authorized a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

Wages and the cost that employees contribute for health benefits remain sticking points.

Union officials were angered when NJ Transit sent notice to union-covered employees that their health benefits would end if they strike.

NJ Transit says the notice is required under federal law.

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10:55 a.m.

Talks have resumed between negotiators for New Jersey Transit and its railroad workers unions aimed at reaching an agreement to prevent a strike for the nation's third-largest commuter railroad.

NJ Transit special counsel Gary Dellaverson told reporters, "Today's the day" as he arrived. Dellaverson says he feels there's no reason they shouldn't be able to reach an agreement Friday.

The unions have authorized a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

Wages and the cost that employees contribute for health benefits remain sticking points.

Union officials were angered when NJ Transit sent notice to union-covered employees that their health benefits would end if they strike.

NJ Transit says the notice is required under federal law.

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9:45 a.m.

Commuters and businesses are bracing for the worst as negotiators for rail unions and New Jersey Transit meet to try and avert a weekend strike.

More than 100,000 commuters use NJ Transit to get into New York City, and the transit agency says its contingency plan using extra buses will only be able to accommodate about 40,000 riders.

In New York, a business group has estimated that each hour the rails are shut will cost businesses about $6 million.

NJ Transit has estimated that a one-hour commute by train would more than double.

Negotiators are meeting in Newark to try to reach agreement on wage increases and health care costs.

The unions have authorized a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Sunday. Workers have been without a contract for five years.