Sat, Dec 24, 2005 - Page 7 News List

New York's transit workers end strike at last

DPA , NEW YORK

A New York City bus makes its way down First Avenue after leaving a bus depot in New York City on Thursday. New York transit workers ended their crippling strike on Thursday after millions of commuters endured three days of frustration and city businesses suffered huge financial losses.

PHOTO: AFP

New York's subway and buses were up and running again early yesterday after a three-day public-transit strike that left New Yorkers walking and biking across the metropolis in bitter cold.

The subway began running at midnight along New York's nearly 1,000km of train lines, and buses had begun servicing their routes again on Thursday night.

The strike had affected 7 million New York workers, students and tourists as well as commuters living outside the city.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the end of the strike on Thursday after the union for 33,700 subway and bus workers agreed to end the work stoppage without a deal on a new contract to resume formal negotiations with transit officials. They had faced substantial pressure to stop the strike, including massive fines and the threat of jail for the union's top three leaders.

"Everything will go back to normal at midnight," Bloomberg said at a news conference.

Bloomberg praised Transport Workers Union leader Roger Toussaint for "acting right" by calling off the strike before negotiations were to restart with Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which runs the vast transit system.

Earlier, Bloomberg had called union leaders' behavior "thuggish."

Toussaint and MTA officials earlier reached agreement with New York state mediator Richard Curreri that the strike be ended so talks could begin again.

Curreri said he had held "fruitful," albeit separate, discussions with both sides during the strike.

"Both parties have a genuine desire to resolve their differences," he said.

Transit workers, who make US$35,000 dollars to US$55,000 a year, demanded a 24 percent pay increase in a new three-year contract while the MTA offered 9 percent. Pension and health were the other contentious issues.

News that the strike had ended caught New Yorkers by surprise as offices were closing on Thursday. Streams of people walked from midtown Manhattan toward the Brooklyn Bridge to their homes in the Brooklyn borough, some having to walk 8km each way since the strike begun.

Others shared livery cabs or taxis four or five at a time as required by the city's contingency plans.

Attendance at schools was higher on Thursday after dropping to 71 percent on Wednesday because of the strike. Restaurant business was down to 40 percent and the economic toll for department stores, museum and Broadway shows was higher.

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