As unions begin voting on Tuesday, March 15 on the proposed new contract with NJ Transit, details of the deal are starting to emerge.  If the reports are correct, the union negotiators achieved most of their demands, and the final contract is close to what the union negotiating position was -- the recommendation of the Presidential Emergency Board before the final negotiations began. According to reporting by Larry Higgs for NJ Advance Media and reported on nj.com and in the Star-Ledger (March 15), the much-discussed worker contribution to health benefits would increase from 1.8% to 2.5% of straight time salary, a hair over the Board's recommendation of 2.48%. The contract also reportedly grants at 21% salary increase over the 8-1/2 year term of the contract; the Board had recommended an 18% increase over 6-1/2 years.  Significantly, sources said the contract would cost NJT a total of $209 million through the contract's end in 2018, compared to original estimates of $183 million for a contract ending in 2017.  NJT had called the $183 million cost unaffordable.  Gov. Chris Christie had said that no fare increases would be required through Fiscal Year 2017, which begins July 1, 2016.  But some analysts speculated that the costs could be back-end loaded and become due after 2017 -- perhaps falling due after Christie leaves office.

The settlement had been announced with only 29 hours left before the strike deadline; the deal was announced by union representatives at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 11. Union members reportedly cheered when informed of the agreement by union leader Steve Burkert. At about 7:30 p.m., Gov. Chris Christie held a press conference; he emphasized that "no outrageous demands on either side were granted;" that he had been closely following the negotiations but, while available, he did not need to come to the table himself; that he never expected a strike or a lockout because both sides were acting in good faith; and that "neither side was spoiling for a strike." He said that the "hysteria" in recent days was "ginned up" by the media.

Lackawanna Coalition Chair David Peter Alan was quoted in by Higgs in an earlier article as saying, "This was probably the hardest labor negotiations since 1983 when NJ Transit rail was formed and they had to negotiate new agreements from the predecessor railroads. I know they went right down to the wire and I thought we likely were not going to have trains on Sunday."