The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Board of Directors recently approved a new contract between the MBTA and its largest union, the Boston Carmen’s Union (Local 589).
“This contract acknowledges the invaluable contributions of thousands of MBTA employees charged with providing safe and reliable service on a daily basis,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “I want to express my sincere gratitude to all of the Authority’s unionized employees. The successful contract negotiations reflect our joint desire to maintain and grow a workforce that will allow the MBTA to deliver the levels of service necessary to meet ridership demands, today and in the future.”
The contract and its provisions are in effect for two years, beginning July 1, 2021, and lasting through June 30, 2023. Included within the contract are provisions for annual wage increases of 2.5 percent on July 1 of 2021 and 2022. The contract also includes a provision for a “pandemic payment.” Every Local 589-represented employee employed during the declared pandemic period (March 15, 2020, to July 1, 2021) will receive a one-time payment of $2,000. Employees who retired during this period will receive a prorated share.
The new contract also addresses the current staffing challenges facing the MBTA. To recruit new hires into the positions of bus and train operators, the MBTA may offer a signing bonus of any amount, to be paid in a manner set by the Authority. Should the MBTA pay such a bonus, the same bonus shall be offered to any incumbent who was hired within the preceding six months from the time the hiring bonus is paid to any new hire.
This new contract increases the training wage paid to MBTA recruits as they get their Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL), learn to be an operator on the MBTA system and play a vital role in getting the people of Massachusetts to work, home and everywhere in between. Under this new contract, people with good driving records and a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) test can in eight weeks receive their CDLs and become MBTA bus drivers making over $33,000 per year with the opportunity for overtime, tuition reimbursement, medical and dental benefits, a pension and career growth opportunities.
The contract also includes a provision for a “diversion payment.” Every Local 589-represented employee who is on the active payroll on March 1, 2022, will receive a one-time diversion payment of $2,500. In return for this payment, the MBTA is permitted to outsource diversion/shuttle bus work beyond the limits outlined in the December 2016 Letter of Understanding. This exemption is temporary and expires on February 28, 2024.
The contract includes an update to paid holidays: Juneteenth National Independence Day will replace Bunker Hill Day as a guaranteed paid holiday.
The contract also includes an update to paid personal leave. Effective January 2022, all full-time and part-time employees will receive two paid personal days per year, which are not subtracted from sick leave, regardless of the employee’s service and sick leave usage. Previously, employees received one day, provided they had two years of service and 50 percent of their sick leave bank unused; the personal day was also subtracted from the individual’s sick leave bank. Any unused personal days will be cashed out at the end of the calendar year.
The contract was also updated to reduce the number of part-time employees. The MBTA currently employs 470 part-time operators represented by Local 589. Under the Management Rights Statute, the Union is prohibited from negotiating any limit on the MBTA’s right to hire part-time employees. The contract provides an incentive for the MBTA to convert part-time operators to full-time operators by establishing “Special Class Runs.” A Special Run will be picked and performed under the same terms as all other full-time assignments, including a 40-hour weekly guarantee, overtime and full benefits.