MBTA And Carmen's Union Agree To Contract Running Through 2021

A Red Line train pulls into South Station. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A Red Line train pulls into South Station. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The MBTA and its largest union have come to terms on a new contract, one that T officials say will save the system an annual average of $22 million over the next decade, and that the union chief said will protect his members' jobs and will improve their quality of life.

While the T and the Carmen's Union Local 589 have clashed this year over privatization efforts, the revised and extended contract eliminates the possibility of the T outsourcing the work of driving buses or operating trains on the T's current system, both sides said.

Carmen's Union members currently operate 2.4 million revenue hours of T service each year, and the new contract guarantees that union members will continue to operate 2.4 million revenue hours on the T. The union, though, will forgo a planned 2.5 percent pay raise next year and will instead see wages held flat in fiscal year 2018.

"We knew we wanted to be part of the solution," Carmen's Union Local 589 President James O'Brien said. "We're glad that we were able to negotiate out of this privatization. It shows that through negotiation instead of privatization you can garner the same savings, if not more savings than you would have had."

The agreement, which revises the contract that had been in place and extends it through June 2021, was ratified Sunday by the union and T officials presented it to the T's Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday afternoon.

MBTA Acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve said the agreement reduces the T's operating expenses by $80 million over four years, $220 million over 10 years and $750 million over 25 years. The new wage structures, he said, will bring Carmen's Union wage growth closer to in line with MBTA revenue growth.

"This is really about creating long-term financial viability for the T," Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told reporters Monday. "I think everyone at the table understood that the path that the T was on was unsustainable and that while the four-year savings are extraordinarily important because we have structural operating deficits, this agreement is about the long term and about reinventing the T in a way that is sustainable financially, but that is also sustainable in terms of a labor-management context that will allow management and the labor unions to work together to the same objectives."

The agreement also makes changes to the starting salary for new union operators, the tiers of wage increases, the way T bus and subway operators pick which days and routes they will work, makes a four-day workweek available to some employees, and calls for the T to pay more into a union health and welfare fund.


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