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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 December 2005, 16:36 GMT
Strike halts New York transport
Commuters walk and cycle across Brooklyn Bridge
Commuters braved freezing temperatures to make it to work
Millions of New Yorkers are without subway and bus services after city transport workers voted to strike.

The 34,000 members of the Transport Workers Union walked out after talks over their contracts collapsed.

They say they are "tired of being underappreciated" but transport bosses accuse them of "bullying tactics".

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who joined crowds of commuters walking to work in freezing temperatures, warned the strike could cost up to $400m a day.

Mr Bloomberg, who has put into effect contingency measures, denounced the strike as a "cowardly attempt" by the union to improve its bargaining position with management.

He asked the seven million people who normally rely on the subway and buses to make car pool arrangements, cycle or walk to work, or work from home.

"We cannot let inconveniences, as massive as they are, stop our economy, shut down our schools or jeopardise public safety," he said.

'Enough is enough'

Under the emergency measures, cars carrying fewer than four passengers were being turned away at bridges and tunnels into Manhattan.

Huge queues formed at commuter buses, trains and ferries that were still running. Some Wall Street firms had laid on shuttle buses.

72nd street subway station stands empty

One commuter, Joy Bennett, said the strike had enabled her to travel to work above ground for the first time. "This is beautiful," she said, walking through Time Square before dawn.

But many commuters showed little sympathy for the strikers.

"Enough is enough," said Craig DeRosa. "Their benefits are as rich as you see anywhere in this country and they are still complaining. I don't get it."

Meanwhile, the striking transit workers took to the picket lines with signs saying "We move NY. Respect Us!"

Illegal strike

Contract talks between the TWU and the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) broke down shortly before a midnight deadline.

They are in dispute over wage rises, health-care and pension costs and the retirement age of employees.

The union argues that cutbacks in benefits are unnecessary as the mass transit system has a $1bn surplus, which the MTA says is for essential reinvestment.

"Transit workers are tired of being underappreciated and disrespected," TWU chief Roger Toussaint said.

MTA says it put a fair offer on the table, and chairman Peter Kalikow called the union action a "slap in the face" for all New Yorkers.

Their lawyers immediately asked for an emergency court hearing to seek a contempt of court ruling against the union.

The strike violates a state law that prohibits public employees from walking out, and the unions and its members could face huge fines.

This is the first mass transit walkout in New York since an 11-day strike in 1980, which was calculated to have cost the city billions of dollars.

Have you been affected by the New York public transport strikes? How did you manage your journey? Send us your experiences and pictures.

See hundreds of people walking to work in sub-zero temperatures

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