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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New York Puts Strike Plans on Hold

NEW YORK -- New York's bus and subway workers' union and its transit agency kept negotiating past a strike deadline Monday, averting an immediate walkout and allowing a normal rush hour commute for millions of people.

The buses and subways that carry more than 7 million daily in the largest city in the United States were operating, city officials put strike contingency plans on hold and negotiators remained at the bargaining table in a Manhattan hotel.

"We've made sufficient progress to stop the clock," Ed Watt, secretary treasurer of the 34,000-member Transport Workers Union, said at a news conference just after the midnight strike deadline. "We will negotiate as long as progress is being made."

A strike, illegal under the state's Taylor Law banning public employees from going on strike, would paralyze the country's largest transit system. Officials said it could cost the already cash-strapped city as much as $350 million a day.

City officials said contingency plans to help people reach school and work were put on hold Monday morning but they were prepared if the talks broke down and a strike was called later.

"We are ready, we have our contingency plan and we hope that we will not have to put it in place," city transportation commissioner Iris Weinshall said on the cable TV news channel NY1.

"If they do go out this afternoon, we have the contingency plans in place."

Progress on a new contract was made in "noneconomic areas of dignity and respect," union official Watt said, a reference to union efforts to change the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's disciplinary system, under which some 16,000 warning letters, suspensions or dismissals are issued each year.

The major economic issue dividing the two sides has been a wage increase. The union, whose members earn an average of $44,000 a year, is seeking an 18 percent raise over three years; the MTA wants a one-year wage freeze.

Many New Yorkers had been making plans to reach work by foot or bicycle, but in the rush hour Monday morning, the worst they had to deal with was rain.

Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg had said he would pedal his 94-block commute to City Hall, but he traveled on his usual subway train to his office.

Commuters were relieved they had so far not suffered the inconvenience of a strike. A walkout would be the first in New York City in 22 years.

On Friday, a judge issued an injunction against the walkout. Under the law, the union faces fines of $1 million a day and members face fines of two days pay each day of a strike.

The city is seeking further damages -- fines of $1 million against the union, doubling each day of a strike, and fines of $25,000 against its members, also doubling daily.

The MTA says it faces a budget deficit next year that could top $1 billion, and it is considering a fare increase. The union has questioned the size of the deficit, saying the agency had a surplus last year of some $300 million.