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MBTA and Boston Carmen’s Union agree on two-year contract intended to address staffing shortages

Passengers left the new Amory Street station in November.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

The MBTA has reached an agreement with the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 on a new two-year contract that will offer signing bonuses to new hires and convert many part-time positions into full-time jobs in an effort to bolster recruitment and retention amid serious staffing shortages, officials said.

The transit authority’s board on Thursday unanimously approved the new contract, which is retroactive to July 1 and includes annual raises of 2.5 percent and a one-time “pandemic payment” of $2,000 for all workers employed from March 15, 2020, to July 1, 2021, the MBTA said in a statement.

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said the agreement “acknowledges the invaluable contributions of thousands of MBTA employees charged with providing safe and reliable service on a daily basis.”

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“The successful contract negotiations reflect our joint desire to maintain and grow a workforce that will allow the MBTA to deliver the levels of service necessary to meet ridership demands, today and in the future,” Poftak said in the statement.

Local 589 president Jim Evers said the union’s “first priority remains to provide riders with the vital public transit services they need each day to get to work, schools, medical appointments, and for other crucial daily activities. We think this deal helps support that priority in many ways.”

“The working condition improvements reflected in this agreement represent essential steps toward addressing the current recruitment and retention issues at the MBTA for the benefit of the rising public and for the public good,” Evers said in a statement released by the union.

Local 589 is the largest union of MBTA employees, with more than 6,000 members, who overwhelmingly ratified the contract on Sunday, officials said.

The agreement will convert many part-timers into full-time staff members across the authority’s rail, bus, and rapid transit systems, using the MBTA’s existing workforce to address changing transit needs as the pandemic and other factors create staffing shortages, the union said.

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It includes a provision for signing bonuses for new hires to help with recruitment efforts and a one-time $2,500 “diversion payment” to union members in exchange for temporarily expanding the MBTA’s ability to outsource shuttle bus work, the MBTA said.

Melissa Siracuse, a streetcar operator on the Green Line since 2014, said MBTA employees “have been here, working day and night, throughout the pandemic.”

“This contract is an important start toward the MBTA recognizing our efforts and it will mean we can hire more drivers and operators to meet the needs of the public,” Siracuse said in the union’s statement.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.