The state’s congressional delegation is urging the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to negotiate with a machinists union in hopes of preventing dozens of jobs from being outsourced.
In an April 17 letter to Governor Charlie Baker and the state’s transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack, the legislators called on the MBTA to negotiate with the International Association of Machinists Local 264 less than a week after the agency’s board approved a budget that could privatize dozens of jobs.
“We as elected officials do not attempt to insert ourselves into the substance of collective bargaining between management and a bargaining unit,” the legislators wrote. “However, we firmly believe that such good faith negotiations over the wages, work conditions, and benefits can have a positive effect for employees and management.”
The letter was signed by the state’s two senators and nine US representatives, all Democrats.
In response to the letter, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said that the MBTA leadership has been “pleased to meet with representatives of Local 264 on many occasions and continues to negotiate in good faith.”
On Wednesday, members of the union praised the delegation for its support.
“We hope Governor Baker and Transportation Secretary Pollack take the appropriate action against the failed policy of privatizing our public transit services,” said Mike Vartabedian, a local business representative of the machinists.
The Baker administration has made privatization a priority to help the MBTA balance its budget. But the push to outsource jobs has met strong opposition from unions and many Democratic legislators.
Last week, the agency’s oversight board approved a nearly $2 billion budget that could privatize four of nine MBTA bus garages as part of a plan that could save $8 million next year. But board members said they want MBTA officials to continue negotiating with the machinists union in hopes they can reach a deal to avoid some outsourcing.
“It’s the hope of the board to have a robust collective bargaining process,” said board member Steve Poftak.
The MBTA has been pursuing talks with the machinists union, but Monday’s letter hints that the two sides have made little progress.
In their letter, lawmakers cited a four-year, $1.5 billion deal between the MBTA and its largest labor group, the Boston Carmen’s Union. In that agreement, the union gave up wage hikes in exchange for protecting many of its jobs from privatization.