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Major N.Y. Commuter Line Strike Held Likely as Negotiations Stall

January 17, 1987|Associated Press

NEW YORK — Negotiators in the Long Island Rail Road labor dispute remained far apart Friday as they faced a midnight strike deadline by 11 unions against the nation's largest commuter rail line.

"A strike is probably likely due to an insignificant amount of movement," said Bruce McIver, president of the railroad, which carries about 272,000 passengers daily.

The federal mediator, Walter C. Wallace, also appeared discouraged as the deadline neared.

"I think that, as the clock moves on, there's less opportunity for optimism. There's still a long way to go," he said.

The unions have been without a contract since the end of 1984.

Officials from Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island urged commuters to plan on taking buses and setting up car pools. A walkout would not be fully felt by commuters until Tuesday, however, because Monday is a federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The unions have asked for a 21% wage increase over a 4 1/2-year contract effective retroactively to January, 1985. Other demands include improvements in the pension plan.

McIver said he wants to base new contracts on settlements reached since October with five other unions, including conductors and ticket agents.

Those unions, which represent 40% of the railroad's 6,600 unionized employees, agreed to 19.5% wage increases over the same period.

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