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CTA unions trade work-rule changes for no-layoff guarantee

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about tentative agreements with multiple CTA unions CTA barn 7088 S. Vincennes. November 5 2012

Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about tentative agreements with multiple CTA unions, at the CTA barn at 7088 S. Vincennes. November 5, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 7, 2012 6:14AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut a five-year deal with CTA construction and maintenance unions Monday that trades cost-cutting work-rule changes for a no-layoff guarantee, setting the stage for a similar agreement with bus drivers and motormen.

The agreement with a dozen trade unions is expected to reduce skyrocketing CTA health care costs by $5 million a year and impose work-rule changes that shave an additional $1.5 million in annual costs.

Employees working the afternoon and evening shifts will be paid straight time and a “shift differential” instead of overtime. The CTA will get greater flexibility to schedule starting times.

Paid holidays recognizing birthdays and hiring anniversaries will be replaced by one personal day and more liberal use of vacation time. And a so-called “work sharing” agreement will allow different trade unions to work together on projects, without regard to union jurisdiction.

In exchange, members of a dozen trade unions get a five-year job guarantee. There will be no layoffs for the duration of the contract.

CTA bus drivers and motormen have not yet agreed to the mass transit agency’s demand for cost-cutting work-rule changes needed to avoid a fare increase.

But Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool made no bones about it. They are hoping to cut a similar deal with the CTA’s largest unions.

“More workers. More work at a price the taxpayers can afford. And reliability for the commuters who take public transportation,” Emanuel said at a news conference at a CTA maintenance facility at 78th and Vincennes.

“It’s all part of a consistent strategy that we have applied throughout the city — whether it’s in recycling, tree-trimming, here at the CTA and McCormick Place. Building a partnership with labor, finding unnecessary costs that are cost-prohibitive, and applying those savings to both more workers, as well as a price taxpayers can afford.”

Claypool said he is in the “final stages” of negotiating a long-awaited agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Locals 241 and 308.

“It’s no secret that the framework of this deal with the trades coalition as well as the Iron Workers is the philosophy and the principles with which we’re trying to negotiate with ATU,” he said.

“That’s seeking greater flexibility, work-rule reform, health care reform in exchange for job security and job protection as well as having the levels of service that those jobs provide.”

Robert Kelly, president of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 308 representing motormen, said he is “encouraged that progress is being made” toward an agreement needed to avert a CTA fare hike.

But just because a dozen trade unions are willing to swallow work-rule changes needed to minimize overtime, reduce health care costs and give the CTA more flexibility to schedule work crews does not mean bus drivers and motormen will do the same.

“I do not base what I get for my members on what another union did,” Kelly said.

“That model was designed for the trade unions. Both agreements are going to be different. How much different, we’ll have to see.”

Informed that Emanuel and Claypool are hoping to duplicate that model with bus drivers and motormen, Kelly said, “The Bears were hoping to go 16-and-0, but they’re not gonna do it.”

Javier Perez, head of ATU Local 241 representing bus drivers, could not be reached for comment.

Last month, the CTA forged an agreement with Iron Workers Union Local 1 that will reduce overtime, give the agency new flexibility to structure shifts and paves the way for “accelerated rehabilitation” of elevated track structures.

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