Boston Globe | By Adam Vaccaro | July 15, 2017
So much for labor peace.
Just seven months after the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and its largest union reached a new labor contract, the two sides are again at loggerheads. Tensions flared last week over terms of the new agreement, when the union blocked management’s effort to change the way work shifts are scheduled.
When the contract was signed last December, it seemed like a kumbaya moment. The MBTA had agreed not to explore privatizing union jobs, ending a pitched yearlong battle, while the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 agreed to concessions that would save the cash-strapped agency tens of millions of dollars.
But then the union sought to block a new system for scheduling shifts that the two sides had agreed on in the new contract. On Tuesday an arbiter sided with workers and ordered the T to delay its rollout.
The new approach replaces an old-fashioned paper-based system where workers were able to pick and choose their days off, schedules, and routes, with a new electronic system that presented them with more limited options. Management said it would make scheduling more efficient and cut down on overtime pay.
Carmen’s Union president James O’Brien said his members expected to be able to select those new routes on a computer, even online from their homes. However, the T was set to roll out the new shifts this fall without the remote scheduling feature, sparking the union grievance that led to Tuesday’s decision by the arbitrator.
O’Brien accused the T of being dishonest.
“The only thing you have in this business is your word,” he said. “Right now, their word to me is no good.”
“Here we are six months into the contract and the authority is already trying to break the contract,” he said. “I’m concerned about their word. They can’t cherry pick what they want. They agreed to the whole contract and they should live up to it.”
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