On Thursday morning, the MBTA Board of Directors authorized a new labor contract that's aimed at tackling the agency's persistent shortage of key workers with increased wages and improved benefits.
In addition to higher wages for entry-level employees, the proposed deal would also create longevity bonuses to help retain experienced workers, who have been leaving the agency at an unusually high rate over the past year.
"Today you see a demonstration that we have your back," Governor Healey told MBTA employees in a press conference announcing the deal at the MBTA's Cabot Yard maintenance facility Wednesday morning. "We'll be looking to improve working conditions as you improve the safe and effective operation of our public transportation system."
Carmen's Union Local 589 Vice President Billy Bernardino called it a "historic" labor agreement.
"It's going to be great for the working men and women at the MBTA," Bernardino told StreetsblogMASS.
As we've reported previously, the existing labor contract between the MBTA and the Boston Carmen's Union specifies unusually low wages and difficult work schedules for entry-level employees.
Those have been significant barriers to the T's efforts to hire for key roles like bus operators. Since the pandemic, the T has struggled to fill hundreds of vacant bus driver positions, which has forced cuts to bus service.
The new contract specifies a new $30 per hour starting wage for bus drivers – about $8 more than the current wage for entry-level drivers.
"These pay scales now put us comparable to the industries that we are competing against," said MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng at Wednesday's press conference.
The proposed deal also allows more attractive work schedules for new drivers. Under previous contracts, new drivers were limited to a 30 hours of work each week for a three to six month probationary period, a rule that significantly limited their take-home pay. The new contract lets new drivers start working full-time immediately.
"I've been a bus operator for 19-plus years. And I know a few of my coworkers have been here a lot longer," said Alix Gaston, a shop steward at the Cabot bus garage. "Collectively, we haven't seen any contract close to this one."