The coalition representing NJ Transit rail workers claimed this afternoon that union workers are being harassed by the agency in the midst of contract negotiations, and just three days before a strike deadline.
An NJT Union Coalition spokesperson said NJ Transit Vice President and General Manager R.M. Lavell issued a notice to all NJ Transit employees represented by the Union Coalition today stating that all existing positions will be suspended, employees on sick leave will no longer receive compensation, and all striking employees will have their insurance benefits discontinued in the event of a strike.
Rail workers plan to go on strike at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, March 13, if a new contract is not agreed on. More than 4,000 workers have been without a contract for almost five years.
NJ Transit and union representatives met again today but no deal was reached.
“It is apparent that NJ Transit’s notice to the coalition members represents retaliatory action and harassment,” reads a statement by the coalition. “This draconian action taken by NJ Transit while the parties are engaged in the negotiation process illustrates NJ Transit’s unreasonable position and unwillingness to reach an amiable solution which is fair to both parties.”
Coalition members say the unions have engaged in ongoing negotiations with NJ Transit with the objective of reaching a settlement without the necessity of engaging in a strike.
President Barack Obama has convened two emergency panels in the last several months. The panels made recommendations on wage increases and health insurance payments that are close to what the workers are demanding, including annual wage increases of about 2.6 percent over about six years. NJ Transit wanted an increase of about 1.4 percent and claims the increases and rising health insurance costs would mean fare hikes, but the union disputes the claim.
“NJ Transit refuses to acknowledge these recommendations and continues its assault on our members,” reads the statement. “We object to NJ Transit’s conduct in this matter while the parties are fully engaged in the negotiating process. Such action on NJ Transit’s part is counterproductive to reaching an amiable solution through the negotiating process.”