UTU members employed by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and working in numerous crafts on Staten Island Railway have a new agreement retroactive to January 2007, following an award by a state arbitrator.

Negotiations had dragged for nearly six years, leading to the arbitration award. Under New York State’s Taylor Law guiding public-employee labor relations, strikes are not permitted.

The arbitrator, appointed by the state, rejected a request for a six-year agreement, meaning the almost 42-month agreement he imposed is already ripe for amendment, and UTU officers on the railroad are preparing to begin a new round of wage, benefits and rules negotiations even as members await retroactive pay under the arbitrated agreement.

“The MTA fought us every step of the way, throwing obstacle after obstacle in our path, such as filing unwarrented charges of bad-faith bargaining against the union when we filed for arbitration after 44 fruitless negotiating sessions,” said General Chairperson Tom Wilson (GO SIR).

Affected by the arbitration award are conductors, engineers, track maintenance, third-rail power, equipment maintenance, signal and electrical craft employees, all represented by the UTU.

Wilson and International Vice President Delbert Strunk, who assisted in negotiations and the arbitration, said the award includes full retroactive wage increases, additional sick days, union release time, night and weekend differentials, pension plan improvements, and a new grievance and arbitration procedure.

Wilson and Strunk praised former UTU Local 1440 President Jaime Brownell and all local and general committee officers — including General Committee Secretary Joe Palmieri and Local 1440 Secretary and Treasurer Vincent LaBella — for “truly tireless and unrelenting efforts during this difficult negotiating and arbitration process.” Wilson said that “the members of Local 1440 can hold their heads high as proud members of a union that will climb into the trenches and battle for their members. Delbert rolled up his sleeves and jumped in to show the might of the UTU International.”

Strunk also thanked UTU members who made contributions to a fund benefiting the financially and emotionally devastated family of his niece, Tori Swoape, who died in May.

Strunk said the outpouring of support, including cards, letters, phone calls and emails, helped “not only Tori’s family, but gave me a needed boost while away from family members during this emotionally difficult time while I worked on the arbitration award. In every way, on the job and away from the property, UTU members take care of their own, which makes the United Transportation Union America’s preeminent labor organization,” Strunk said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority was created by the New York legislature in 1968, and took over control and operation of the passenger service of Staten Island Railway in 1971 from Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (now part of CSX).