The Chicago Transit Board, at its monthly meeting today, passed an ordinance authorizing the execution of a collective bargaining agreement between the Chicago Transit Authority and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 308. The new agreement would be in effect retroactively from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2003. ATU Local 308 represents CTA rail operations employees.
"I am very pleased that after a year and a half of negotiating toward a new contract, the CTA was able to work with Local 308 to reach an agreement that satisfies union leaders, Local 308 membership and CTA management. Today's Board action finalizes the deal and gives all of us the opportunity to move forward to continue working more effectively and efficiently to provide service to our customers that is on-time, clean, safe and friendly," said CTA President Frank Kruesi.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, Local 308 members will receive a generous wage increase, retain quality health care coverage, collect higher pension benefits, plus receive a $1,000 signing bonus within days of Board approval.
The contract calls for seven wage increases to the top hourly rate of rail operators: a $.50 per hour increase retroactive to October 2000; another $.50 per hour increase effective July 2001; $.30 per hour increases in October 2001, July 2002 and October 2002; a $.40 per hour increase in July 2003, and a $.70 per hour increase in October 2003. During the term of the contract, Local 308 wages will increase by 15%, or a total of $3.00 up to $23.01 from the present rate of $20.01 per hour.
Local 308 members will continue to have the current Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans through December 31, 2001. Effective January 1, 2002, three PPO options and two HMO options will be available. If employees decide to "opt out" of insurance coverage, the CTA will pay them up to $950 per year once proof of alternate coverage is provided.
Pension benefits will increase based on changes in the pension formula that will place more funds in the retirement plan.
CTA management stands to benefit from this agreement as well. The agreement will allow the CTA to implement work rule changes that will lead to improved efficiency and productivity in the use of manpower and equipment.
A key element of these changes will be the introduction of rostering, which allows greater flexibility in work scheduling. Rostering is the process of grouping daily work assignments into weekly assignment packages. A pilot program involving three of the CTA's rail terminals will be in effect for the duration of the new collective bargaining agreement. Besides rail operators, the program will include customer assistants, towermen and switchmen.
Rostering will allow the CTA to coordinate work schedules to better suit operational needs, maximizing the amount of work accomplished and providing more service for CTA customers. A full-time employee's weekly 40-hour roster mix might include weekday work only or a combination of weekday and weekend work. Any combination would be assigned in a way that ensures the highest standards of safety and performance.
The agreement calls for other beneficial elements as well. CTA uniform allowances will increase by $50 to $250 a year. Work clothing allowances will go up $27.50 to $150 a year, and shoe allowances will increase by $25 to $50.
Included also is the Rail Excel program for rail maintenance employees, which will reward employees for developing knowledge and skills beyond the basic responsibilities of car repairers. Plans for training would include courses at City Colleges of Chicago. The program would call for new employees to meet performance expectations within a specific period of time.
To ensure that all operating employees maintain the highest level of qualification for their jobs, recertification will be required every two years for rail transit operators as well as switchmen, towermen, rail service supervisors and rail instructors.
"We consider this agreement a model for meeting the needs of management, employees and especially our customers, who will benefit from the increased efficiency it will provide for our rail operations," said CTA chairman Valerie B. Jarrett. "By linking more effective use of working time with appropriate periodic wage increases, we are putting the CTA on a solid foundation for meeting the challenges of the 21st Century."
President Kruesi added that ?The CTA is moving in a new direction, and the response has been increasing ridership for the fourth year in a row. As we bring new buses on line, upgrade the 'L' fleet and improve rail stations, we are creating an increasingly attractive system. The contract that has been approved today recognizes the achievements of our employees in ensuring that the gains continue."