MBTA pension benefits tweaked to attract, retain workers

THE MBTA IS offering signing bonuses and other perks to fill the many job openings at the agency. Now the transit authority is tweaking its retirement benefits to better retain existing workers, attract new ones, and even bring some out of retirement.

With the T desperately short of workers, the moves represent something of a reversal by the agency, which in recent years has tried to rein in what critics have long said were overly generous retirement benefits. 

The MBTA board approved a new pension agreement with the Carmen’s Union on Thursday that replaces an arbitration decision issued last year that union members didn’t like and that T officials feared would make it more difficult to hire new workers and prompt existing employees to retire sooner. 

The new agreement allows up to 125 retirees to return to work part-time at the MBTA and continue to receive their pension and other retirement benefits.

The deal also raises the cap on the annual retirement allowance from 75 percent to 80 percent of the employee’s top three highest-earning years.

And it allows any union member with at least 10 years of service to retire early with a fully vested pension that kicks in at age 65.

“A 10-year vesting schedule is going to be attractive for many of the vacancies that we’re trying to fill,” said Ahmad Barnes, the senior director of labor relations at the MBTA.

One other big change: The new agreement directs that 50 percent of the money in the MBTA pension fund be transferred into the state pension fund, which has a better record of investment performance and cheaper costs.

The MBTA estimates the shift will save millions of dollars a year and lead to improved performance. According to the presentation to the MBTA board, the T’s pension fund had an unfunded liability of $1.3 billion at the end of 2021.




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