NEW YORK – The city's 33,000 union transit workers narrowly rejected a new contract Friday, one month to the day after a crippling three-day strike stranded 7 million bus and subway riders.
The workers, by a seven-vote margin, rejected union President Roger Toussaint's call for ratification of the three-year contract. The vote was 11,227 to 11,234.
Toussaint didn't address the possibility of another strike when he announced the result, but opponents of the proposed contract said they were hopeful a new deal could be reached without another walkout.
"I would not advocate going back on strike," said union Vice President Ainsley Stewart, who opposed the new contract. Stewart said opponents were most upset by a provision that would have required union workers for the first time to contribute part of their salaries toward health care premiums.
Toussaint blamed "downright lies" for the failure but said the union's leadership was ready to "go back to the drawing board" as soon as possible. He left without taking questions.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the city's mass transit system, had no immediate comment.
The three-day strike that started Dec. 20 shut down the nation's largest mass transit system right in the middle of the holiday shopping season. It was the first system-wide strike since an 11-day walkout in 1980, and it left New Yorkers and tourists scrambling to find ways to get around the city.
It was also an illegal strike. State law forbids strikes by public employees, and the walkout put Transit Workers Union Local 100 and its members at financial risk.
The union was fined $3 million, and workers were fined two days pay for each day on strike, though a Brooklyn judge has yet to determine exactly how much of those fines the union and its employees will pay. Toussaint could also face jail time for the walkout. A hearing scheduled Friday was postponed.
The rejected contract would have provided workers with raises of 3 percent in the first year, then 4 percent and 3.5 percent in the following two years. But it would have required them for the first time to contribute 1.5 percent of their salaries toward health care premiums.
The MTA agreed to pull a proposal that would have raised the retirement age for new hires from 55 or required new employees to contribute more to their pensions.