A labor board created to fix a longtime dispute between New Jersey Transit and its workers says the agency's unionized rail employees should receive a pay raise.

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 14, 2014 file photo, a New Jersey Transit train travels across a portal bridge in Kearny, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The Presidential Emergency Board decided that NJ Transit should give its train workers an 18 percent pay raise over the next two years, The Record reported.

The agency told the federal board that the raise plus rising payments for the employee's health care would cost NJ Transit an additional $138 million between now and 2018.

NJ Transit said the contract is not affordable, and that paying the wage increase would require a fare hike of 29 percent if there are no other sources of revenue.

This is the second round of emergency boards that sided with union workers over NJ Transit. The unions asked for similar terms in both rounds, including a pay raise of about 18 percent over seven years.

The agency and its unions have a 60-day "cooling off" period to weigh their options. If neither side is willing to compromise, the unions may strike or NJ Transit can lock out union members from its rail properties under federal law.

Either move could result in a shutdown of NJ Transit trains as early as March 12, which would leave 295,000 people looking for other means of transportation.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

 

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