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The Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) appointed by President Obama to settle a contract dispute between New Jersey Transit and the Rail Labor Coalition has recommended the coalition's final offer in its entirety, the coalition announced yesterday.In a 34-page report, PEB 249 reviewed the findings of the earlier PEB 248, which the coalition submitted as its final offer. In rejecting NJ Transit's position, the board wrote that the "carrier's push to link the wages, benefits and working conditions of its employees to those of state employees is not moving the parties toward a voluntary agreement," coalition officials said in a press release.The board accepted the coalition argument that the most relevant comparators were recent settlements reached by rail workers at other commuter railroads in the region.The recommendations call for wage increases totaling 17 percent over a six-year term; health insurance that will rise to 2.5 percent of straight time pay by Jan. 1, 2017; "modest" increases in employee copays for in-network doctor visits and emergency room visits; mandatory mail order for prescription drugs; 20-minute conductor certification pay; and a five year phase-in of Carrier 401(a) contributions for new hires. NJ Transit's proposal to eliminate employee passes was rejected, coalition officials said.The coalition is made up of 14 unions that represent thousands of rail workers. The impasse over a new contract with NJ Transit has lasted for nearly five years. Coalition leaders have called on NJ Transit to return to the bargaining table to reach an agreement based on the two PEBs' recommendations. If no agreement is reached, a strike or lockout could began at 12:01 a.m. on March 13, coalition officials said.
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