STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
A MAJOR LABOR GROUP representing MBTA workers proposed a plan on Monday that it said would net $24 million in savings over four years for the transportation authority as it seeks to eliminate its $80 million structural deficit in fiscal 2018.
The proposal would add two years to the Boston Carmen’s Union contract, which expires July 1, 2018, adding wage increases of 1.5 percent for those two years, which is a smaller bump than usual. The proposed agreement would allow the T to privatize its central warehouse operations while prohibiting the transit agency from privatizing other services – such as cash-handling, where union members collect and count cash for the T.
MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve praised the union for working to reduce expenses, though he cautioned that plans for savings at the MBTA “can’t be entirely back-loaded.” He said more immediate savings are needed on flexible contracting, pensions, and the duration of the work week.
Shortsleeve said the Carmen’s plan generates $2 million to $3 million in savings over the first few years while privatizing the money room would generate an estimated $4 million to $5 million in savings.
Lawmakers in 2015 gave the MBTA a three-year window without statutory restrictions on outsourcing, and Shortsleeve said it is “unlikely” the T would “concede much” from that relief.
“They certainly want to be part of the solution here,” Shortsleeve told reporters ahead of Monday’s meeting of the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board. Shortsleeve said reforming the rules around overtime would be a good way to achieve savings. [During the meeting, Shortsleeve also thanked the Carmen’s Union for offering to reduce annual wage increases to 1.5 percent rather than the previous pattern of 2.5 percent.]
Thomas Roth, a labor consultant for the union and president of The Labor Bureau Inc., said over the past decade the average annual wage increase has been 2.7 percent.
The carmen’s union also finds a lot of its proposed savings through people not yet working for the MBTA. The plan would exact an 11 percent wage reduction for the first four years of service on fulltime employees hired after July 1. Part-time employees would receive an 8 percent reduction in wages over their first six years of employment.
“For months now we’ve been asking to have a seat at the table,” Boston Carmen’s Union President James O’Brien told the control board on Monday. He said over 25 years the plan could save the T $190 million.
Control board member Brian Lang, who is president of the union Unite Here Local 26, said it is “very common” for labor organizations to share cost-reduction plans with management.
“I think it’s a great initiative,” Lang said of the Carmen’s push. He said, “I’m hopeful that we’re going to be able to work something out.”
Sen. Marc Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat, told the control board the proposal is “something that we should be looking at very seriously.”
The Boston Carmen’s Union, Local 589 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, counts more than 4,100 T employees among its members, including bus drivers, customer service agents and money room employees.