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MBTA

New Labor Contract Generates a Surge of Job Applications at the T

11:17 AM EDT on August 25, 2023

A yellow, white, and black MBTA bus is parked at a curb with the words "NOT IN SERVICE" above the driver's window in the front.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user bradlee119, licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0

The MBTA's shortage of bus operators is more acute than ever, but relief could be coming soon: more competitive wages and benefits in the newly-adopted union contract have generated a significant surge in new job applications.

In spite of intense recruiting efforts over the past year, the T currently has just 1,450 active bus drivers on its payroll – down from 1,474 at the beginning of the year.

Bar chart showing bus driver hiring trends since January. The first column for January shows that the T had 349 vacant positions vs. 1474 active drivers; subsequent columns for February and March show the number of vacancies increasing to 353 to 365, respectively. In the May 2 column, there were 201 "vacant" positions plus 140 "inactive" employees. In the rightmost column for August 24, the total height of the column increases to 1,923, reflecting the addition of new part-time positions in the new fiscal year's budget, but the number of vacancies has also increased (to 307) and the number of inactive employees has increased as well (to 166).
* The MBTA changed its reporting methods in May to distinguish “active headcount” (hired bus drivers who are working) from “inactive headcount” (hired drivers who are out on leave). In previous reports, the T had only reported its “active headcount” and included inactive positions among its vacancies.
** The higher column height for August 24 (1,923 positions) reflects the addition of new part-time bus operator positions in the FY2024 budget, which took effect on July 1.

But at the beginning of this month, the MBTA board of directors authorized a much more competitive labor contract with the Boston Carmen's Union Local 589.

The new contract offers a $30 per hour starting wage for bus drivers – about $8 more than the previous wage for entry-level drivers.

"Across the T, of all our opportunities, we're seeing an increase (in job applications)," said MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng in his monthly report to the Board of Directors yesterday.

"The difference has been shown in the results over this last month. Since August 1, we've seen 753 bus applications," said Eng.

That represents a 356 percent increase over the 165 bus operator applications the T received in the entire month of July, before the enactment of the new labor contract.

It will still take several more months for the T to process those applications and for new hires to complete the 10-week bus operator training course.

According to MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo, there are currently 48 bus operators in training.

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