Christie says we’re prepared for NJ Transit strike … but doesn’t say how (WATCH)
As the threat of a March 13 NJ Transit rail strike gets closer to becoming a reality, NJ Gov. Chris Christie did not provide details about a possible contingency plan, but stressed that every extra dollar given to the unions comes from fares and taxpayers.
During Monday night's Ask The Governor program, Christie briefly discussed the ongoing negotiations between the the coalition of 11 employee unions, NJ Transit Rail Labor Coalition and NJ Transit.
"We're in the midst of pretty intense negotiations," Christie said, but would not discuss exactly where the negotiations stand at this point, and whether he believes a strike will, in fact, take place.
Christie said it's "not fair to characterize whether strike will be averted. We are intensively working on this."
The governor criticized the demands being made by the unions, and the impact pay or benefit increases would have on taxpayers and people who ride the rails.
"We represent them — the riders, the fare payers, the taxpayers and some of these things that are being demanded are outrageous," Christie said.
The governor stressed that negotiators are working to avert a possible strike.
"My job is to let my negotiators negotiate. No one's goal is to have a strike here," he said, stressing that any additional increases paid to transit workers comes out of taxpaers' pockets. "Every extra dollar I give them comes for you. There's no magic money tree that we take this money off of. It's gonna come from fares and taxes."
Without providing any detail, the governor said he believes the state is prepared in the event of a strike.
"I am completely confident that we've got a contingency plan in place if this turns out to be a strike, which I don't want it to be," Christie said.
He did not elaborate on whether or not he has any type of executive authority that would force union members to go back to work.
"The fact is, there a number of different steps that can be taken (if there's a strike)," he said.
A commuter advocacy group told NJ 101.5 Monday that NJ Transit has not expanded on any contingency plans. Michael Phelan, co-founder of New Jersey Commuters Action Network, said he believes the "Plan B" involves NJ Transit adding “three or four dozen” buses in and out of New York City to accommodate the shifting rail volume.
NJ Transit's unions are planning a rally in Woodbridge this Saturday.
Dino Flammia and Dan Alexander contributed to this report.
Toniann Antonelli is the digital managing editor for news at NJ 101.5. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.