Could the MBTA Stations Get Even Grimier?

A proposed contract could allegedly eliminate some of the MBTA's full-time cleaning positions over the next few years.

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If top MBTA officials don’t choose wisely, things could get dirty at the train stations and stops, union representatives said Friday.

According to a statement sent by members of SEIU Local 615, the organization that represents “nearly all” of the MBTA’s cleaning and janitorial employees, almost 30 percent of the contracted janitors who tend to the T’s stations and facilities could potentially lose their jobs as a result of “extreme and unprecedented cleaning cuts” stemming from a proposed contract that will be voted on next week.

An analysis of the contracts by union representatives at SEIU showed that nearly 100 jobs could face elimination over the next five years if the contracts were awarded to the lowest bidder—and transit riders would “surely see, feel, and smell the effects of dirtier stations” because of it.

“From our reading … by year two, staffing levels would go down, and that’s our concern,” said Vicky Jaffe, Communications Director for SEIU Local 615. “We are trying to raise the visibility of this between now and next Wednesday. It will have an affect on the public … it will have an impact.”

According to union representatives who examined the proposals, which were put out to bid by the MBTA, the contracts would include reducing the cleaning staff at specific MBTA locations, such as the Red and Silver lines, and reduce the current level of 315 janitors tasked with picking up around the T down to roughly 225 janitors over the course of several years.

T officials countered the claims, however, and said that regardless of what contract is picked, it won’t change the cleanliness of the stations, stops or facilities. Joe Pesaturo, a spokesman for the MBTA, said via email that there will be a discussion on the proposed contracts at a public board meeting with T officials scheduled for June 19. “One thing is certain—there will be no change in the scope of cleaning services provided,” he said.

But Jaffe said that just means employees will likely be doing more work with less hands, and full-time jobs will be turned into part-time positions, eliminating health insurance for union members, and turning “good jobs into bad jobs.”

“It’s correct for the MBTA to say there will be not cuts, because there are no cuts the first year of the contract. But there would be cuts in the second through fifth years,” she said. “This would affect our communities.”

SEIU Local 615 members started a petition on Friday to combat the proposals. Workers from the union also staged a protest outside of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation building in Boston to refute the alleged future cutbacks. “Not only would such extreme cuts harm the janitors that clean the MBTA and their families, they would also hurt the quality of the cleaning services,” said Diana Bell of Community Labor United and the Public Transit-Public Good Coalition. “T riders expect and deserve a clean and safe environment when they use public transit.”