Possible NJ Transit Strike Looms Later This Month

A cooling-off period expires on March 13th. NJ Transit rail workers could go on strike. NJT trains connect with several SEPTA lines.

NJ Transit Northeast Corridor train

Northeast Corridor NJ Transit trains connect with SEPTA trains at Trenton. (Photo by Adam E. Moreira; used under a Creative Commons License

NJ Transit rail operators may strike later this month. The transit agency is releasing contingency plans later today.

A court-ordered “cooling off period” ends March 13th; at that time rail workers can walk off the job or NJT can lock them out. A coalition of 11 rail unions has been working without a contract since 2011.

“The last thing we want is a strike,” the coalition said in a release. “Our settlement proposal is modest and fair. All we are asking is what has been recommended by two expert neutral panels.”

President Obama previously set up a federal board to settle the dispute between NJ Transit and its workers. The Presidential Emergency Board ruled in favor of the unions’ proposal, saying workers should get 18 percent raises the next two years. NJ Transit said such a move, combined with rising health care costs, would cost the agency $183 million through 2018.

NJ Transit hiked fares last year by 9 percent, and says it has considered additional hikes. “We remain focused on reaching an affordable settlement with the unions for our customers,” NJ Transit’s interim executive director, Dennis Martin, said in a statement.

“My job at this point is to let my negotiators negotiate,” Gov. Chris Christie said on his radio show. “Let them work and let them work the problems out. That’s everybody’s goal. No one’s goal is to have a strike here. Everyone wants to work it out.”

The New York Times reports contingency plans call for buses to pick riders up at five locations in New Jersey; the buses will drive riders to New York, or to ferries or PATH trains. SEPTA’s Trenton line connects with lines to New York City and destinations in New Jersey; NJT also operates daily transit to Atlantic City from 30th Street Station.

The last NJ Transit strike was in 1983. The two sides meet Friday in front of the National Mediation Board.

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