MBTA Board Votes To Privatize 'Money Room'; Union Officials Arrested In Protest

The MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board is seen during a January 2016 meeting. (Joe Difazio for WBUR)
The MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board is seen during a January 2016 meeting. (Joe Difazio for WBUR)

The MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board voted Thursday to privatize the transit agency's so-called "money room."

The oversight board voted that a Virginia-based company, Brink's, be awarded a five-year, $18.7 million contract to oversee the T's cash-handling operation in Charlestown.

An earlier outside review found widespread security issues at the facility that collects and counts an estimated $119 million in cash annually. The MBTA believes using outside workers would save more than $8 million in the first year.

Steve Tolman, president of the AFL-CIO, spoke before the board vote. He disagrees with the privatization plan, citing issues with the operator of the T's commuter rail.

"Enough is enough," Tolman said. "It's clear that this is not about getting results for riders, it's about getting profits for private companies."

But Charlie Chieppo, of the free market think tank the Pioneer Institute, said the move makes sense.

"If we're serious about fixing the T, privatization in the money room is a must," he said.

Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, also supports the board's vote. He told reporters Thursday the money room "has been for years a source of problems and serious concerns."

He added that no jobs will be lost.

"Everybody who currently works at the money room will be able to continue to be employed by the MBTA if they choose to do so," Baker said. "In fact, many of them were bus drivers before they worked at the money room and they’ll be able to go back and be bus drivers again."

Protests And Arrests

Ahead of the meeting, seven members of the Carmen's Union protesting the privatization of the cash-handling operation were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly.

About 100 picketers assembled outside the money room early Thursday to prevent workers and armored cars from or exiting or entering.

The Carmen's Union, which represents more than 4,100 MBTA workers, opposes outsourcing.

“We never wanted it to come to this, we have tried for months to convince the MBTA to join us for constructive negotiations at the bargaining table," James O’Brien, Local 589's president, said in a statement. "We cannot stand by while they privatize our public transportation system and turn the keys over to a private company seeking to profit from our riders' fares and the public’s tax dollars."

In a statement following the arrests, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said: "The MBTA’s immediate concern this morning was the safety risk picketers created for workers inside the building by padlocking the gates, obstructing emergency exits should they be needed."

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said those arrested were also charged with disorderly conduct. We regret the error. 

With reporting by WBUR's Steve Brown and the Newscast Unit, with additional reporting by The Associated Press

This article was originally published on October 06, 2016.


More from WBUR

Listen Live