T ‘Picking Room’ taking a hike

Software replacing manual shift section process

THEY CALL IT THE PICKING ROOM, the place where T union employees go one at a time by seniority to pick their schedule for the next quarter by making marks on paper sheets posted on the walls.

T officials said a new labor agreement approved on Sunday by the Carmen’s Union and Monday by the T’s oversight board will automate the picking process and make the room unnecessary. The officials said new software will allow workers to make their shift selections remotely on their phones or computers and reduce overtime for workers who monitor the process.

Meet the Author

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.

Brian Shortsleeve, the T’s acting general manager and chief administrator, said the picking process would typically take eight weeks to complete. He said the T will introduce electronic roster picking software over the next 12 months that will allow the transit authority to develop weekly work schedules maximizing operator work time.

Shortsleeve said the 20 inspectors assigned to the picking process will no longer be paid extra and overtime work will be eliminated, saving the T $4.7 million in the first four years of the contract. He said another $2.6 million will be saved by eliminating situations where workers inadvertently schedule themselves for shifts too close together in violation of a rule requiring a 10-hour break between shifts.

The electronic roster-scheduling process is one of a handful of work rule changes approved as part of the MBTA-Carmen’s Union contract. T officials said the work rule changes are the first substantive modifications approved since 1913.