T, machinists reach tentative agreement

Terms not disclosed; union opposed privatization of 3 garages

THE MBTA AND ITS MACHINISTS UNION said on Friday morning that they had negotiated the terms of a new multi-year collective bargaining agreement that presumably would forestall the transit agency’s plans to privatize bus repair garages.

In a joint statement, the T and the International Association of Machinists Local 264 said they agreed not to discuss specific terms that remain under discussion until a final agreement is negotiated and ratified by union members.

The T struck a similar type of deal with the Carmen’s Union in December 2016. The pact offered $22 million a year in savings to the T while putting core operations off-limits to privatization.

The agreement with the machinists came after a marathon negotiating session on Thursday and just before the union was scheduled to hold yet another rally at the State House protesting the T’s plans to privatize three bus maintenance garages. The T solicited private companies to operate  the bus garages in Lynn, Quincy, and Jamaica Plain, but only one company, First Transit of Cincinnati, submitted a bid. First Transit has a checkered background in Massachusetts, having walked away from a contract to operate the T’s paratransit service in 2009, an action that resuled in a $7.3 million settlement.

The machinists union, with the backing of Democratic lawmakers on Beacon Hill and in Congress, has sought to block the privatization initiative by rallying political opposition and by offering wage and work rule concessions of equal or greater value. It put a 2.5 percent raise on hold in July, offered to accept new job classifications, and agreed to a number of other initiatives.

But until recently there had been little movement on the part of the T. At the January 8 meeting of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said recent discussions between the T and the union had been productive and one more meeting was planned that week before the matter would go to the board.

On Wednesday, Michael Vartabedian, the business agent for the machinists union, said the T was finally getting serious about the negotiations. “They have offered us a proposal that you could characterize as the start of negotiations,” he said. “But we’re still stuck in a position that they’re not offering us a real path to zero privatization.”

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The terms of the deal reached late Thursday were unclear, but Vartabedian on Wednesday said the union had only one priority. “The only thing we’re asking for is job security,” he said.

In the negotiations, Vartabedian headed the union’s negotiating team, while the T was represented by its legal counsel and MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez.