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MBTA operators’ union objects to strict cellphone policy

A bus crash last month left an MBTA bus dangling over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Newton.

Newton Fire Department

A bus crash last month left an MBTA bus dangling over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Newton.

The union that represents MBTA train and bus operators is objecting to state a tough new policy against cellphone possession by operators issued by state officials.

The Boston Carmen’s Union ATU Local 589 says it’s “deeply disturbed” by the new policy, which calls for any train or bus operator found with a cellphone to be suspended for 30 days and recommended for firing.

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The union says in a statement posted on its website that there are times when “alternative communications” are needed on a bus for “everyone’s protection” and the MBTA had offered no solution to that problem.

The new policy turns “bargained policy on its head, determining that all bus and transportation workers are guilty until proven innocent and declaring management judge, jury and executioner without due process,” the statement said.

State transportation officials announced Monday that they were tightening the rules on cellphone possession by operators.

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The operators have been barred from possessing cellphones since 2009, but the previous punishment was a 10-day suspension and recommendation for firing after two violations. The tougher new punishment for simply possessing a cellphone now matches that for an operator found texting or talking on a cellphone while on duty.

The MBTA announced it was tightening the policy a month after a crash that left an MBTA bus dangling over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Newton. The driver in that case is accused of having a cellphone in her hand before the accident, which injured seven people. She was terminated and has pleaded not guilty to an obstruction of justice charge.

More coverage:

MBTA tightens no-phone policy for drivers

MBTA fires driver who crashed bus in Newton

MBTA driver pleads not guilty in Newton bus crash

MBTA driver’s cellphone at issue in Newton bus accident

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