T’s largest union signs new contract

Waiver removes provision hindering construction work

THE MBTA board of directors on Thursday approved a new two-year contract with its largest union that provides 2.5 percent annual wage increases and one-time allotments per employee of $2,000 in pandemic pay and $2,500 for waiver of a job protection rule negotiated by the union in 2016.

Ahmad Barnes, the T’s senior director of labor relations, said the total additional cost of the Carmen’s Union contract over the two-year period will be $27.7 million, half of which will be paid for with federal relief funds because fare revenue is down so much.

Barnes said the contract amounts to an average increase of nearly $2 an hour by the end of the contract and an average $4,148 increase in base salary.

The $2,000 payment is in recognition for work done during the pandemic. The other one-time payment of $2,500 is in return for allowing the T to use private bus drivers to handle diversion s– shuttling passengers between stops when capital work is being done on various subway and train lines. The waiver is temporary, expiring on February 28, 2024.

Barnes said the 2016 agreement required T drivers to handle a third of the diversion work. At the time that provision was negotiated, the T was doing about $500 million of construction work a year. The T is now doing three times that amount, and T employees are unable to keep up with the one-third requirement.

“These agreements from 2016 essentially strangled our ability to increase the amount of service delivery and perform a greater amount of construction work,” Barnes said.

Several sections of the union agreement are expected to help increase the number of operators, which are in short suppl y right now. Union officials said a key provision converts many part-time employees into full-time staff. Another provision allows the transit authority to pay signing bonuses to new employees, which had been prohibited previously. According to Barnes, the Carmen’s Union currently has 3,297 full-time employees.

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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 new contract also increases the training wage paid to MBTA recruits who are getting their commercial driver’s license, or CDL. Under the contract, someone with a good driving record and a high school diploma or its equivalent can in eight weeks become an MBTA driver earning $33,000 a year with significant benefits.

The contract starts retroactively on July 1, 2021 and runs through June 30, 2023.