Laid-off transit workers targeted on Monday $470 million the Metropolitan Transportation Authority set aside for future health care costs of retired workers, saying the agency could use it to put them back to work, but transit officials said it would be irresponsible to use that money for other purposes. NY1's Transit reporter Tina Redwine filed the following report.
One by one, some of the 269 station agents the Metropolitan Transportation Authority laid off in 2010 pleaded with the agency's board members in an Wednesday meeting in Midtown to give them their jobs back. They said they are at the end of their ropes.
"We know that you have the funds and we would like to be reinstated," said laid-off transit worker Linda Edwards.
"The community needs the station agents in the booths and we need our jobs back today," said laid-off transit worker Brenda Edwards.
"I love to work and need my job back. My unemployment benefits will be ending next week," said laid-off transit worker Lennette Silva.
The tough economy has made it hard for Silva to find another job, she says. Silva gets one more $400 unemployment check, putting her and her two sons at risk of losing their $1,400-a-month apartment.
"I’m so stressed out, my hair is falling out, crying every other day," said Silva.
The Transit Workers Local 100 said the MTA can afford to give workers like Silva their jobs back and to pay wage increases in the new contract it is negotiating with the TWU.
The union says the money can come from a $470 million fund set aside to pay future health care costs of retired workers
MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said using that money would be irresponsible....that those costs are projected to be an additional nearly 12 billion dollars in the years to come.
"It's nowhere near enough. We have to continue to fund the fund so we can make sure the retiree benefits are there when the retirees of the MTA need it," said Lhota.
Meanwhile, negotiations continue on a new contract between the MTA and the union. The MTA says there is no money for a pay increase. The union says it will not settle for anything less.