N.Y. transit workers abruptly end walkout

FRIDAY, DEC. 23, 2005

NEW YORK – The buses and subways began warming up, while commuters and striking workers thawed out.

After a crippling, three-day strike, the city transit union sent its members back to work Thursday without a new contract, slowly restoring service to millions of riders who had been left stranded during the height of the Christmas rush.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had derided union leaders as “selfish” and “thuggish,” suggested New Yorkers welcome transit workers with this greeting: “Glad you’re back. I missed you.”

The mayor’s conciliatory tone typified the atmosphere after the city’s first transit walkout in 25 years ended with an announcement by smiling mediators.

Roger Toussaint, president of the Transport Workers Union, smiled, too, and thanked commuters for their “patience and forbearance.” He didn’t even complain that no new negotiations were scheduled with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The deal puts the nation’s largest mass transit system back in motion while negotiations on a new three-year deal resume. But it does not resolve the contract dispute, raising the threat of another walkout if negotiations fail again.

A chief sticking point in the talks was a Metropolitan Transportation Authority proposal to require new hires to contribute 6 percent to their pensions, up from the current 2 percent for all employees. The pension proposal remained on the table despite the end of the walkout.

Transit workers left their jobs early Tuesday in violation of a state law prohibiting public employees from striking.

The return to work was announced just minutes before Toussaint and two of his top deputies were due in a Brooklyn courtroom to answer criminal contempt charges that could have landed them in jail.


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