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Monday, 16 December, 2002, 07:15 GMT
New York strike put on hold
New York subway train
The transit workers are demanding pay rises
A strike of New York's bus and subway workers that was planned to start at a minute past midnight on Sunday (0501 GMT) has been put on hold.

Millions of New Yorkers who use the bus and subway network every day had been preparing for transport chaos.

Passengers in a subway carriage
Seven million passengers could be affected
The surprise suspension of the strike came after a weekend of apparently fruitless talks.

"We've made sufficient progress to stop the clock," Ed Watt, secretary-treasurer of the 34,000-member Transport Workers Union, told a brief news conference just after the strike deadline.

"We will negotiate as long as progress is being made."

More than seven million daily users of New York's mass transit system - the largest in the US - will have to find another way to work or school if the strike goes ahead.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg tests a bicycle
Mayor Bloomberg say he will beat any strike on a bicycle
City officials have set up contingency plans - such as banning cars from entering Manhattan unless they contain at least four people - and residents have been stocking up on bicycles and walking shoes as well as food supplies.

'Far apart'

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the strike by 34,000 transit workers would be illegal and has pledged to do everything to stop it.

The workers are seeking rises of 6% for three consecutive years, while the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has offered no rise for the first year and linked subsequent raises to productivity increases.

Mr Watt said progress had been made in "non-economic areas of dignity and respect" - likely to refer to union efforts to force change in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's disciplinary system, under which some 16,000 warning letters, suspensions or dismissals are issued each year.

His remark suggests that differences over wages had yet to be resolved.

Nobody's going to shut down New York

Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Mayor Bloomberg has estimated a strike could cost the city up to $350m a day in police overtime costs and lost business and taxes.

Correspondents say he has taken a firm stand against any strike and he is hoping to impose multi-million dollar fines on the union for every day of the strike.

Last week, the mayor bought himself a bicycle in a photo opportunity to show nothing would stop him getting to work.

"Nobody's going to shut down New York," he said.

City sensitivities

Many New Yorkers have been following his lead, buying bikes and organising car pools to travel into Manhattan.

The union knows what happened last year, they know the economy was crippled - it's not the right time

Henry Robbins
The union has been trying to win public support with television advertisements saying "We don't want to strike".

But some residents feel that a New York City still suffering economically from the attacks on the World Trade Center should not be hurt again.

"The union knows what happened last year. They know the economy was crippled," said Henry Robbins, an express-mail service worker.

"It's not the right time."

The BBC's Joe Lynam
"Talks broke down last week"
Stephen Evans reports from Manhattan
"Plunging tax revenues have created a fiscal crisis"
See also:

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