About one-sixth of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s workforce, including its general manager and other top executives, will be forced to take five furlough days in the coming months, as the agency seeks to contain costs despite an incoming haul of new federal funding from the latest COVID-19 relief bill.
Workers in three MBTA labor unions, as well as non-unionized executives, will be required to take one unpaid day off a month between February and June. The move will affect about 1,000 workers; MBTA drivers and operators, the largest section of the workforce, will not be required to take furlough days.
The MBTA has seen ridership — and thus fare revenue — collapse amid the pandemic, prompting a series of service reductions set to begin this winter, as well as a number of other cost-saving measures, such as refinancing debt and diverting funding meant for long-term projects toward daily operations.
The T is moving forward with the service changes even though the agency is slated to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the new pandemic relief bill passed by Congress in December. MBTA officials argue the changes will put the agency on better financial footing once the pandemic is over, ridership returns, and the federal money dries up. T officials are apparently adopting the same philosophy for the furloughs.
“We are taking these actions ahead of fiscal year 2022 to hopefully avert the need to take similar or more dramatic action in the future,” general manager Steve Poftak wrote in a message to employees in December. He said officials will later determine whether the furlough days will still be necessary in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the furloughs should save the MBTA about $2.5 million.