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September 18, 2013

LIRR, union sign project labor agreement

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and local private-sector unions have reached a Project Labor Agreement designed to reduce the LIRR’s labor costs on seven major construction projects by nearly 11%, saving the Railroad an estimated $6.5 million over the course of the next five years while protecting local trade union jobs.

The agreement, negotiated between the LIRR and the Buildings and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, is a first for the MTA and the LIRR. In addition to reducing costs, the pact includes a “no strike” clause on the covered projects, provides opportunities for minorities and women to enter trade union apprentice programs, and includes non-discrimination provisions in union hiring hall and job placement practices.

The first project to benefit from the agreement, which is subject to approval by the MTA board of directors, will be civil and structural work for Phase 1 of the LIRR’s proposed construction of a second track on its Main Line between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma scheduled to get underway early next year. The MTA has budgeted $137.7 million for this first phase in its 2010-2014 Capital Plan.

The “Double Track” project will improve service and reliability on one of the LIRR’s busiest branches, spur economic activity, improve off peak frequency of service and reserve peak commuting opportunities, including connections to MacArthur Airport. The Double Track project environmental assessment and 30-day comment period on the project has been completed and a final decision on the project is expected in the fall.

The seven projects covered by the agreement are expected to create between 400 and 500 private sector construction jobs on Long Island.

The other projects covered by the agreement are: the New Mid-Suffolk Electric Yard ($76.6 million); Hicksville Station Improvements ($55.2 million) and Hicksville North Siding ($37.7 million); Ellison Avenue Bridge Replacement in Mineola ($39.2 million); Great Neck Pocket Track Extension ($25.8 million); Wantagh Station Platform Replacement ($20.7 million); and the Colonial Road Highway Bridge Replacement, also in Great Neck ($9.5 million). The total cost of union labor on those projects was originally estimated at $60.1 million.

Under the agreement, the Railroad guarantees that its contractors will employ only trade workers under the terms of collective agreements in the construction industry on Long Island, a key issue for labor which has seen many local jobs go to out-of-state firms employing non-union workers in recent years.

In undertaking negotiations with the Buildings and Construction Trades Council and its members, the LIRR's goal was to obtain the best work at the lowest possible price, prevent favoritism, fraud and corruption, and avoid delays and labor unrest, according to the agency.



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