Boston Globe: T, union feud over arbitrator’s award

lawsuitBoston Globe | October 4, 2013 | By Martine Powers

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 have filed dueling lawsuits in a dispute over an arbitrator’s award that would increase T workers’ salaries by an average of 10.4 percent, giving many employees an extra $10,000 to $14,000 in raises retroactive to 2010.

MBTA officials said the significant raises outlined in the arbitrator’s decision would cost $62 million to $88 million, a sum that would put the transit agency in financial jeopardy. But a union official said in a message to its 6,000 members, which include MBTA bus and subway operators and maintenance crew, that the T is trying to shortchange them in fighting the award.

“We wish we could tell you that there is some legitimate dispute behind the problem, but the opposite is true,” John A. Clancy, the union’s recording secretary, wrote in a blog post on the union’s website. The Carmen’s Union is the largest of the T’s 28 unions.

The lawsuits come on the heels of another controversial arbitrator’s award: Boston patrolmen were awarded what city officials say amounts to a 25.4 percent raise over six years, which would cost the city $80 million. Mayor Thomas M. Menino has urged the City Council to vote against funding the award, and it has become a prominent issue in the mayoral race.

For the MBTA, funding the arbitrator’s Aug. 26 decision would come at a significant cost. This year, the T narrowly avoided service cuts and fare increases with an influx of $118 million provided by a state transportation finance package. MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said spending an additional and unbudgeted $62 million to $88 million would have a significant impact on the agency’s fiscal health.

On Sep. 25, the T filed a lawsuit against the union, stating that the terms of the award, set by arbitrator Sarah Kerr Garraty, were unreasonable.

“The arbitrator did not give due consideration to the MBTA’s financial ability to meet these additional costs,” said Pesaturo.

Under the award, a contract that covers 2010 to 2014, the top base rate for a bus operator would increase from approximately $64,000 per year to $70,000, not including overtime pay, Pesaturo said.

That increase, he said, “exceeds the more modest wage pattern that had been established by the majority of other MBTA unions.” In 2009, four of the T’s smaller unions agreed to defer 4 percent raises for one year to help close the T’s budget deficit.

In her decision, Garraty said “the wage award . . . is intended to permit Local 589 bargaining unit members to keep pace with increases in the cost of living and to keep historic wage ratios with employees performing similar services in the Commonwealth.”

Contract negotiations in 2009 broke down in large part because of the T’s effort to transfer Carmen’s Union members to the general state employee insurance plan, a switch that would save the state money, but would require union members to pay more for their health insurance.

Union officials did not return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment. On the Carmen’s Union website, Clancy said the arbitrator’s award did not meet all the union’s needs: The pay increase, he wrote, did not adequately outweigh the additional costs of the new health insurance plan.

The arbitrator, Clancy wrote, “provided far too little money to help pay the expense of health care for active and retired workers.”

Still, he said, union officials were willing to accept the terms of the contract and could not understand why the MBTA would not.

On Sept. 30, the Carmen’s Union responded to the T’s lawsuit with a suit of its own, saying that the transportation agency had provided no evidence to dispute the arbitrator’s award and that the T’s complaint should be dismissed.

The two parties are scheduled to appear in Suffolk Superior Court Oct. 11.

In the blog post, Clancy called the T’s lawsuit pointless.

“Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey, surely in consultation with the governor, has decided to sue for the sake of suing — at great expense to the Commonwealth and to you and our union — and acting against the law,” the post said

Pesaturo said that Davey, and T General Manager Beverly A. Scott did not intend for the lawsuit to imply they do not appreciate T workers.

“Recognizing the hard work of MBTA employees, [Davey and Scott] stress that this lawsuit is not about the employees, and they acknowledge the good work they do every day,” Pesaturo said. “This appeal was filed because of the significant impact the arbitrator’s award will have on the long-term fiscal health of the MBTA.”

Martine Powers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.

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  1. Oct 11th 6;25 nothing said yet what is going on?

    • j dimare on October 11, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Well its. Oct 11 ..i would hope that our union will make a effort to keep. The membership updated on fridays ruling ..asap

    • chris on October 7, 2013 at 9:58 am

    It’s amazing!!!!! How the mbta can fund a green line expension project that costs 393 million dollars but they do want to pay their front line employees who provides the public with getting them to and from their destination, safely in a time manner.
    393 million dollars!!!!! Really Mr Davey…..The T can’t substain what again??

    • ski on October 4, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    One of the many ideas I have on how the MBTA can raise more money. Raise more Money so you don’t have to waste time going to court.

    Walk up to the State House and talk to our State Treasurer, Steve Grossman. The discussion will focus on creating a Charlie Card scratch ticket. Why? Read below how Red Sox, Pats, and Bruins get money.

    The Red Sox scratch ticket “Monster Money” is the fifth Sox instant ticket. Including the latest ticket, the ball club has netted $ 10 million from the licensing deal with the lottery. Sales of Red Sox tickets $120 million–96.8 million in prizes–14 million in local aid to cities and towns.

    The Pats $2.5 million and Boston Celtics $650,000.

    The Charlie Card scratch ticket can offer cash, –scratch a bus get a monthly bus pass, perhaps put more smaller prizes so people have a better chance of hitting.

    I watched the gm video on safety, Perhaps, she can make a video on Charlie Card Scratch ticket that will benefit the MBTA and local cities and towns.

    The bottom line is to come up with ideas to bring more money into the system. Consult with Steve Grossman–for example his 2011 state pension fund returned 22.3%. I won’t mention our return less than a CD.
    The Massachusetts state pension fund posted a 22.3 percent gain for the fiscal year ended June 30, its best return in 25 years, Treasurer Steven Grossman said yesterday.

    Just one idea!!!

    • CAA on October 4, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    It is disturbing to read this, but you are not the first to go through it. The transit authority I work for tried to have our last binding arbitration award vacated for many of the same reasons. Fortunately, the courts upheld the arbitrator’s decision. It is disgusting when a transit authority (or any other public entity) makes the choice to waste taxpayer dollars in ridiculous fights.

    • David on October 4, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    I guess the term BINDING ARBITRATION is lost on the powers that be.!

    The submission of a dispute to an unbiased third person designated by the parties to the controversy, who agree in advance to comply with the award—a decision to be issued after a hearing at which both parties have an opportunity to be heard.
    Ultimately, the decision to use arbitration cannot be made lightly. Most arbitration is considered binding: parties who agree to arbitration are bound to that agreement and also bound to satisfy any award determined by the arbitrator. Courts in most jurisdictions enforce awards. Moreover, they allow little or no option for appeal, expecting parties who arbitrate to assume the risks of the process. In addition, arbitration is subject to the legal doctrines of Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel, which together strictly curtail the option of bringing suits based on issues that were or could have been raised initially

    • j cat on October 4, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Once again this article and the state leadership will never admit to the waste of MBTA funding and how the operating cost is mostly for paying the interest on the 15 billion debt that has grown over 30 years…

    They want you to get nothing for those 4 years with no increase in wages. On top of that you get to pay much more for any medical insurance and if your with health issues a large amount of added costs before the insurance begins to kick in.

    Being retired I got hit with a $3,000 loss due to the insurance removed from my pension . plus the added costs ..

    They are a greedy bunch. democrats that we supported. now that this patrick is going back to Chicago he does not need our vote any more.

    In the past the republicans most times gave us a good deal. when Jim Lydon was in charge we got a good contract from the governor directly if I remember correctly.

    next time we should vote for good political people that support the transportation system and that includes the workers. The democrats are not for working people any more .

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