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New York's MTA to publish LIRR offer in newspaper, radio ads Wednesday

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's transit agency will publicize the details of its contract offer to Long Island Rail Road workers in newspaper and radio advertisements on Wednesday, the agency said, in an effort to pressure unions to call off a looming strike.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has offered a 17 percent pay raise over seven years, limits to benefit contributions and continuing pension payments for current employees.

The unions have balked at the requirement that future workers would have to make steeper payments into their benefits, saying it would create an unfair two-tier system among the LIRR's employees.

"Unionized Long Island Rail Road workers are the best paid in the nation. They make almost $90,000 a year, get free health care and generous pensions," the MTA says in its radio ads. "Yet the unions are still threatening to strike. When is enough enough?"

Talks to avert the looming strike broke down on Monday, and the coalition of eight unions negotiating on behalf of the 5,400 rail workers said they were proceeding with plans to begin a strike on Sunday.

A strike would leave some 300,000 daily commuters from New York City's suburbs on Long Island scrambling for alternative transportation. Although a walkout could begin at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, service could begin winding down on Saturday, according to the MTA, a state agency.

On Tuesday, the state's top financial watchdog said a work stoppage could cost $50 million a day in lost economic activity, a blow for a region still overcoming the effects of the recession and Superstorm Sandy.

"Both sides must go the extra mile to reach a reasonable settlement so we can avoid the costly impact of a strike," said Thomas DiNapoli, New York's state comptroller.

The strike would hit during peak tourism season, affecting tens of thousands of people heading to destinations on Long Island such as the Hamptons, Fire Island and Long Beach, he said.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is scheduled to begin a 10-day vacation in Italy in the coming days, said on Monday at a press conference that the potential economic impact of a strike would be blunted as travel is lighter in July due to vacations.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Jonathan Allen and James Dalgleish)

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