Tuesday, February 09, 2010

38 workers strike deal with CTA to keep jobs

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A tentative deal that allows 38 Chicago Transit Authority maintenance workers to keep their jobs in return for concessions is a sign that other unions may be ready to cut a deal and get canceled buses back on the road, CTA chief Richard Rodriguez said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The railroad maintenance workers were among 1,057 workers laid off Sunday as part of cutbacks that saw 18 percent of bus services and nine percent of train services canceled.

They returned to work this morning after agreeing in principle to "take some unpaid days" and to defer scheduled pay increases, Rodriguez said. Though their return isn't enough to allow the CTA to reinstate canceled services, Rodriguez said the deal "is a good sign that the union is willing to work with us."

But Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241 president Darrell Jefferson, who represents 903 laid off bus drivers, and ATU Local 308 president Robert Kelly, who represents L workers, said they haven't had a chance to study the deal the maintenance workers agreed to.

"We'll have to see what the deal says and go and talk with our members first," Jefferson said.

Further talks aren't likely until Wednesday at the earliest, they said. Jefferson said he needs reassurances that "there won't be another doomsday report in October 2010 like there was in October 2009." Kelly added, "The tradesmen's unions are going to do what they're going to do, but it has nothing to do with us."

The latest developments came as commuters faced their first workday of reduced service on the L and CTA buses today. CTA officials said more people had crowded onto some buses and trains but reported "no major delays." Many commuters left for work early, anticipating delays, Rodriguez said.

But twice as many workers as normal appear to have had a case of the "blue flu," failing to show up for work this morning, causing 30 extra buses to be cancelled, he said.

The CTA is still negotiating with its unions in hopes of getting concessions to make up all or part of what it says is a $95 million budget deficit that it blames on a decline in tax revenues.

The service cutbacks took effect starting Sunday. Nine express-bus routes were eliminated. Service on 41 other bus routes has been reduced. And there are now longer waits for all L lines other than the Yellow Line/Skokie Swift.

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