T board approves ‘unique’ union contract
Sources say agreement spawned internal fight
THE MBTA’S OVERSIGHT BOARD on Monday approved a new contract with its largest management union, bringing to an end what some sources have described as an internal fight over T labor policy.
The contract with Local 453, which represents about 400 of the T’s 600 union managers, covers the three-year period beginning July 1, 2015, and running through June 30, 2018. The agreement calls for a wage increase of 2.5 percent in the first year, a 3.5 percent increase in the second year, and a 3.5 percent increase in the final year. The two, 3.5 percent increases are a departure from other union contracts the T has negotiated with other unions and represent an added cost of $963,000, officials said.
The Local 453 contract also halts a deferred compensation plan, but only for new members of the union. The deferred compensation plan has not been funded adequately in the past, resulting in a liability for the T of about $80 million, officials said. By ending the program for the estimated 40 employees who join the union each year, T officials said the new contract will save the transit agency money in the long run.
John Englander, the T’s legal counsel, described the contract with Local 453 as unique and said it should not be construed as a departure from the pattern established by contracts with other unions. “Given the T’s current fiscal priorities and constraints, the results of collective bargaining through FY2018 should give rise to no expectations for the next round of bargaining,” Englander noted in his slide presentation, which put the word no in bold.
Sources say some members of the control board became concerned earlier this year at how the T’s negotiations with Local 453 were carried out. One source said the T’s negotiators did not follow the board’s orders, but that could not be confirmed as board members and T officials declined to comment on what was discussed in executive session.
As she left the board meeting, Calise said she voted against the contract because the money to fund it had not been budgeted. “We’ve set ourselves up for $1 million that wasn’t planned for,” she said, adding that the terms of the contract create a structural deficit for the T.Poftak declined to comment on Calise’s concerns, but acknowledged that “the contract will be a challenge to fund.”
Mark McLaughlin, president of Local 453, a unit of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, did not return repeated phone calls and emails.