NJ Transit officials and rail union representatives took a break from negotiations Thursday afternoon and NJ Transit Special Labor Counsel Gary Dellaverson gave a statement about talks to avoid a strike.
Dellaverson said both sides hope to continue to work toward a collective bargaining agreement that would prevent a strike.
“I think every effort is going to be made to not do this on Saturday night,” he said.
If both sides can’t come to an agreement by Sunday, the 4,200 workers covered by 11 rail unions will go on strike and train service will come to halt.
Dellaverson said a shutdown is complicated and preparations for it could happen as soon as tomorrow, but he said they would be invisible to the public.
Dellaverson says he doesn’t intend to update the public on contract negotiations later today.
NJ Transit has contingency plans in place in the event of a strike, but it estimates they only will account for 38 percent of affected riders. Transportation experts predict traffic could back up 20 to 30 miles around the Hudson River crossings and add an additional hour to commute times for those taking shuttle buses.
Officials and union representatives have been negotiating to avoid a work stoppage, but have gotten held up on health care plan contributions. The unions wanted to contribute 2.5 percent of their salary toward health benefits, but NJ Transit wanted employees to pay 10 to 20 percent of premiums. Union workers have been without a contract for five years.
NJ Transit says the unions’ proposal would cost $183 million and lead to fare increases. The unions say they are asking for terms equivalent to what LIRR and Metro-North workers have.
The last NJ Transit strike happened in 1983 and lasted 34 days.