MBTA Janitors Won’t Lose Their Jobs Starting Sept. 1

The T is back-pedaling on a plan to let nearly 100 cleaners go, at least for now.

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Photo provided by 32BJ SEIU District 615

After more than a year’s worth of protests and meetings with transit officials, janitors responsible for cleaning the MBTA’s stops and stations who thought their jobs were in jeopardy will no longer face unemployment come September 1.

According to 32BJ SEIU District 615, the union that represents hundreds of contracted cleaners tasked with tending to the T’s property on a daily basis, officials have decided to hold off on planned layoffs that were supposed to go into effect at the start of next month.

“The MBTA’s decision to reconsider these drastic cuts is good news for workers and T riders,” said Roxana Rivera, director of 32BJ SEIU District 615, in a statement sent to Boston. “We look forward to continuing to work with the MBTA and its cleaning contractors to find cost-saving alternatives that save taxpayer dollars while ensuring the quality service, safe jobs, and standards of cleanliness that the T riders deserve.”

According to a source close to the agreement, the MBTA will potentially iron out how to test a new performance-based system next year, rather than beginning on Labor Day, when a plan to cut one-third of the janitorial staff was imminent.

The MBTA entered into a contract agreement with two separate cleaning firms—ABM Industries Inc. and S.J. Services Inc.—in 2013. As part of that agreement, the two companies were allowed to make adjustments to their staffing schedules and cleaning plans beginning in the second year of the contract, which starts September 1. The union had originally predicted that the cuts would have resulted in a reduction in staffing of 90 janitors, or 29 percent of the overall workforce.

They narrowly avoided that scenario, however.

“The MBTA has asked its cleaning contractors to delay the planned changes to staffing levels while we continue to hold discussions with SEIU,” said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. “For the immediate future, the cleaning contractors will continue to operate in accordance with the terms of the first year of the agreements.  The MBTA remains determined to implement a plan under which cleaning services are provided in the most cost-effective manner possible.”

The news from union officials comes just days after some janitors started to receive notices from one of the two companies that contract them through the MBTA about their termination.

On August 20, a worker who has been cleaning the T’s property for more than a decade was told she was let go as a result of the janitorial service contract obligations with the transit agency. The layoffs were based on employee seniority, according to the letter she received.

After the letters started to go out, members of the union launched yet another aggressive campaign, distributing fliers and talking with people on the streets about the drastic changes riders would face as a result of the layoffs.

The union first began protests against the layoffs when they learned of the new contract and plans in June of 2013.