Under New Contract, MBTA Workers Won’t Lose Their Jobs to Privatization

Many employees at the T will be spared having their jobs outsourced for four years.

In a major milestone for the post-Snowpocalypse MBTA, officials and union leaders said Monday that the agency and the Carmen’s Union have reached a deal that will keep bus and train operators from losing their jobs to private contractors for the next four years.

An update to the contract that runs through 2021 assures the drivers, as well as many maintenance workers, that some of their worst fears about privatization—including the outsourcing of bus routes and bus upkeep to some private company offering to do it more cheaply—will not come to pass, at least for now.

James O’Brien, who heads the Carmen’s Union Local 589, says he is pleased with the result of the negotiations.

“We knew we wanted to be part of the solution,” O’Brien tells the State House News Service. “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.”

Details of the deal were made public at the T’s oversight board meeting Monday.

The union made concessions, as the $1.5 billion deal does not include a 2.5 percent wage increase that workers had hoped for next year. The drivers will be paid the same amount they make now through fiscal year 2018. Then, employees are slated to receive a 1.5 percent hike in 2018 and 2019 and a 2.5 percent hike in 2020, the Globe reports.

Also included in the agreement are other T overhauls, among them a new starting salary for new employees. The T will also update the way overtime hours are calculated, including enforcement of a new requirement that employees work more than 40 hours in a week in order to qualify.

MBTA Acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve tells the State House News Service that the new contract saves an estimated $80 million over four years, $220 million over 10 years, and $750 million over 25 years.

“This is really about creating long-term financial viability for the T,” Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told reporters, according to the News Service.

Privatization has been raised repeatedly during the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker, who has overseen belt-tightening and reform at the T since the devastating winter of 2015 exposed just how vulnerable the state’s public transit was to calamity.

Elsewhere at the T, privatization is moving forward. The MBTA’s board voted in October to replace Union laborers at its cash-counting operation with services from Brink’s, the home security company. Seven union workers were arrested earlier this year while protesting the move.

This is the second major vote of the T’s board in as many weeks to come with promises of multi-million dollar cost savings. A decision to increase the number of new Red Line trains it plans to purchase, officials say, could save as much as $40 million long-term.