17 NJ Transit unions plan to call a "soft strike" on the system's rail lines on March 12 according to NJ Advance Media.

The unions, which have worked without a contract for five years, would strike through the weekend and into Monday, March 14, when they expect the Obama Administration to order workers back to work.

A Presidential Emergency Board created to mediate contract talks between management and the union issued a ruling in January that recommended NJ Transit give workers an 18 percent raise over two years with nominal increases for medical coverage, reported NorthJersey.com. NJ Transit said that deal is "not affordable" and would bring a fare increase of 30 percent according to the newspaper.

NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder in a statement said, "While a recent news report indicated that NJ Transit rail unions may consider disruptive actions allowable under antiquated federal laws, we have no knowledge of union plans to interfere in the provision of service to our customers.  NJ Transit remains fully committed to a fair and affordable solution to these contract talks with the goal of protecting our customers and taxpayers. To that end, negotiations held today were substantive."

A 60-day cooling off period ends on March 12 at which point the unions would be allowed to strike or be locked out by NJ Transit leading to a possible shutdown of the transit agency, according to the PEB. Management could also step in and run the trains.

During the weekend of the possible strike Madison Square Garden hosts the Big East Tournament while Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus visits the Prudential Center in Newark.

NJ Advance Media reported that both sides are expected to meet today but the union doesn't expect an agreement to come out of the session. One employee told the news site that some employees are not eager to strike because they would be blamed for resulting problems.

Michael Phelan, president of the NJ Commuter Action Network,believes that commuters would be sympathetic to a job action by the unions.

"The governor and the legislature have essentially defunded that agency over the last 5 years. Certainly they're not without sin prior to that and perhaps they wasted money and there were issues with management but as the state cut $300 million I've seen them try to do their best with that shortfall. Certainly not happy with the rate increase that came out of that. But if NJ Transit labor hasn't received a pay increase in five years most of our riders would support that move no matter how inconvenient it is to us."

The lack of funding is a sign of disrespect for infrastructure, for commuters and the workers, according to Phelan.

"(NJ Transit) barely pastes together a budget any given year without robbing from Peter to pay Paul and loans and little shell games," said Phelan, who formed NJCAN after the problems NJ Transit had transporting fans after the Super Bowl in 2014 at MetLife Stadium.

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