(Recasts with talks to continue)
By Curtis Skinner
NEW YORK, July 16 (Reuters) - The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and unions representing 5,400 workers on the Long Island Rail Road will continue talks to avert a strike that may affect hundreds of thousands of commuters, both sides said on Wednesday.
A strike would leave some 300,000 daily commuters from New York City’s suburbs on Long Island scrambling for alternative transport.
“We will all be here and we will have communications back and forth all night long. And we will resume face-to-face 10 a.m. tomorrow,” Anthony Simon, spokesman for the eight-union coalition, told reporters after about six hours of negotiations.
The MTA has offered a 17 percent pay raise over seven years, limits to benefit contributions and continuing pension payments for current employees. The MTA said unionized LIRR workers are among the best-paid in the nation, making almost $90,000 a year.
A coalition of eight unions negotiating for workers have balked at a requirement that future workers would have to make steeper payments for their benefits, saying it would create an unfair two-tier system among the LIRR’s employees.
The two sides met in offices near Times Square on Wednesday afternoon after talks broke down on Monday with a possible strike set to begin at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. (Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in Mineola, New York and Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Eric Walsh)