Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Games People Play

As if the "circus" in Washington, DC isn't already bad enough, an article in today's The Boston Globe definitely adds some fuel to the fire for Boston-area commuters. I'm beginning to think that adulthood is just one giant sand box in which nobody plays well together.

If the cash-strapped MBTA Board cannot find a way to pay back wages to members of the Boston Carmen's Union Local 589 during its October meeting, union president Steve MacDougall said that the members have a plan to "impact service."

This is some of what could happen:
MacDougall stopped short of saying workers would deliberately slow service down, which would be illegal under collective bargaining rules. But the effect could be the same if workers decided to take advantage of all rights they have under their contract and to follow often-overlooked regulations: by calling in sick en masse, refusing overtime shifts, obeying speed limits that require significant slowdowns in advance of subway platforms, and holding buses at every stop until all passengers are seated.
Honestly - our nation is on the brink of an economic crisis and this is how the union wants to receive their back pay? I understand that the members may need this money, but there are a lot of people out there right now without jobs. Can't we all just work together?

This is the back-story to this situation:
Union members had been without a contract for two years before an arbitrator ruled on July 7 on a four-year contract that awarded them a 9 percent raise, as well as back pay for the two years they went without a cost-of-living increase. Some of the T's other unions have approved similar contracts, and others are expected to follow suit.

The pay raise went into effect immediately, but the T withheld the back pay until it could amend its annual budget. The T has not said how much is owed the Carmen's union, but estimated that covering back pay for all the unions would cost $43 million.

To pay the debt, the heavily indebted T is contemplating a plan to borrow more money, use the last $1 million from its emergency fund, and deplete a modest capital fund set aside to keep equipment maintained.

I've taken Labor Relations courses. I understand negotiations. I'm not sure a "deliberate service slowdown" would be the best tactic at this point. Commuters are taxpayers and everyone is feeling the pinch at the moment.

Obviously, I hope something can be worked out prior to the October deadline.

In other news, The Eagle-Tribune ran a story today about the Haverhill-Bradford MBTA commuter rail layover facility. It may be moved to Plaistow, NH.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I ride the Worcester Line, too, so a lot of times I have experienced the same things that you did, and I appreciate that you take time to blog about life on the rails.

Have you ever thought about profiling some of the conductors on the train (without necessarily naming them)?

I was thinking about Games People Play, the title of this blog entry, and I started thinking about the games that some of the rail staff plays with us.

Just an idea.

Thanks for all that you do.