Gov. Chris Christie confirmed Friday night that NJ Transit and its 11 unions had reached a tentative contract agreement, averting a possible strike Sunday.The governor, in a Friday night news conference, said the unions, which represent more than 4,200 New Jersey Transit workers, had been working without a contract since 2011, but will now be covered through the end of 2019.
“It’s good news on many levels,” Christie said, according to a transcript issued by his office. “First, we averted a strike and the damage it would do to our economy and we reached an agreement that is longer than the Presidential Executive Board recommendation. … This is going to give workers and commuters a measure of certain and stability as we go forward.”
Christie characterized negotiations as difficult, and with compromises made on both sides.
“I never felt as if we were that far apart, that if we were acting in good faith we couldn’t come to an agreement,” he said in a separate statement. “I knew it was going to take my involvement to do it, but I don’t come in two weeks ago. If you are the ultimate decision-maker, which on this, from the government side of it, I am, you do not come in until the very end.”
He added, however, that fare hikes were not part of the agreement.
“From the perspective of the New Jersey taxpayers and the New Jersey Transit fare payers, who I represent, I want to let you know — we have settled the contract with their interest being placed before any other interest,” he said at the news conference.
The workers must still ratify the agreement.
“I know the unions were acting in good faith and I know we were acting in good faith, and that combination … listen, I don’t believe the members of the union wanted to strike,” Christie said. “They care about their customers. They do not want to hurt the customers and inconvenience them. They don’t want to go without pay, and I think they only would have done it if they felt we were being unreasonable and not acting in good faith.”
No details of the contract agreement were available Friday night.
“I am very happy that we resolved this agreement before our transit system and our economy were disrupted by the threatened strike,” Christie concluded. “And, again, I want to thank everyone who helped make it possible.”