Joe Kennedy lends support to T workers’ anti-privatization effort
Union rallies in Quincy, kicks-off public education campaign
MBTA UNION WORKERS rallied against privatization efforts Monday morning at a bus maintenance garage in Quincy, where US Rep. Joseph Kennedy spoke in support of the mechanics’ fight against outsourcing the work done at the T’s maintenance garages.
“The men and women that are here today are just asking to negotiate. They’re not asking for much,” Kennedy told workers and their supporters outside the garage. “They’ve put their own proposals for saving on the table and are asking for a chance to engage across a table to see how we can come to an agreement.”
In a shot across the bow of the Baker administration, which has been pushing for privatization savings at the T, he added, “The fact that that outreach has been met with silence speaks volumes about the direction that this administration wants to take these negotiations.”
The Quincy bus maintenance garage is one of four garages targeted for privatization by the MBTA. Some union leaders charged that maintenance outsourcing is a step toward full privatization of the T by the Baker administration.
“Brian Shortsleeve, I believe, is really fixated on privatizing these garages,” Michael Vartabedian, business agent for International Association of Machinists Local 264, said at the rally, referring to the T’s former general manager, who recently stepped down and joined the MBTA’s oversight board. “I believe it was [Shortsleeve’s and Gov. Charlie Baker’s] plan all along.”
Mechanics, fuelers, and technicians within in IAM Local 264 have been in negotiations with the T to find middle ground that would allow the agency to increase savings and efficiency while preserving the 406 jobs of bus maintenance workers.
The T’s Fiscal Management and Control Board set a $21 million savings target for bus maintenance. The union has proposed multiple money-saving alternatives to counter privatization and meet the board’s goal. In addition to $29 million in potential annual savings Local 264 says it has proposed, the union said it is willing to consider a further $6 million to $8 million in savings from concessions by workers.
Among the compromises the union says the workers are willing to make: having more requirements to be eligible for raises or professional advancements; altering job classifications for new hires; and pushing back the 2.5 percent wage increase that was set to take effect July 1.Following this morning’s rally, the T released a statement touting the purchase of 375 new buses that the agency says will allow for a streamlining of maintenance services.
“To improve service for all riders, the MBTA is replacing over one-third of its bus fleet with 375 new vehicles, all of which are under warranty, while using this opportunity to explore significantly reshaping the maintenance program to reinvest cost savings,” said the statement. “Pursuing the same industry maintenance standards employed by the Boston public school system and every Regional Transit Authority, including Greater Attleboro-Taunton and the Pioneer Valley, the MBTA looks forward to working with its employees and union leadership to modernize this important function and generating tens of millions in savings to be reinvested in system improvements for the riders who depend on it.”