The coalition of NJ Transit union workers have been warned they will be heavily fined and likely lose their jobs if a strike is called and they cross picket lines.

In a message from SMART (Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, Transportation) Local 60 general chairman Stephen J. Burkert workers reporting to work at any location during a strike against NJ Transit would be considered a “strike breaker or scab."

The member would be fined $1,000 per day plus triple-fined on any extra compensation received from NJ Transit.

"You will also be brought up on charges by the local and if found to have worked while we were on strike you will be expelled from the local and lose your employment," Burkert said in his message.

NJ Transit and its unions will return to the bargaining table in Newark Friday. Thursday, while all sides said they still hope to avoid a strike — which could be called as early as 12:01 Sunday morning — tensions were high late in the day as the agency sent employees a notice saying all existing positions would be suspended, health benefits would end and sick leave compensation would stop.

"This notice is required by federal law," NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said.

Burkert said the notice represented a "retaliatory action and harassment" of union members and said the "draconian" measure shows NJ Transit's "unreasonable position and unwillingness to reach an amiable solution which is fair to both parties."

Sen. Robert Menendez, speaking outside the Newark hotel where negotiations are taking place, said “I get a sense that the notices may have been premature to send in the midst of negotiations. And I had hoped that what I had read and heard from New Jersey Transit’s negotiation — that the tone and tenor was positive and therefore we were moving in the right direction — was going to carry the day, but obviously that wasn’t the case" according to the Asbury Park Press.

Menendez said that "we cannot afford a shutdown"  that would disrupt the lives of 100,000 commuters.

"By the same token, you can't expect transit workers to to be five years without a contract, to concede to two independent arbitrators' decisions and still be told 'no.'" and urged NJ Transit to "be serious about coming to a contract negotiation and averting a strike," he said.

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