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City, CTA union reach deal to cut costs, speed repairs

CTA President Forrest Claypool

CTA President Forrest Claypool

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Updated: November 11, 2012 6:17AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel forged a cost-cutting agreement Tuesday with one of the CTA’s oldest labor unions that will reduce overtime, give the agency new flexibility to structure shifts and use foremen and pave the way for an accelerated schedule of L system repairs.

The one-year agreement covers nearly 70 members of Iron Workers Union Local 1. It will allow the financially strapped mass transit agency to “more efficiently run three consecutive work shifts at regular time, instead of overtime,” officials said.

In exchange for a $1.04-an-hour increase in wages, the agreement will also reduce the number of employees required on an afternoon shift that includes the evening rush, typically the CTA’s “least-efficient” shift.

Foremen would be free to both supervise and work alongside the journeymen ironworkers they oversee, increasing productivity.

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 maintained that the new cost-cutting agreement with the iron workers will pave the way for “accelerated rehabilitation” of elevated track structures.

That includes a “major slow zone remediation project” on the Brown and Purple lines between the Merchandise Mart and Armitage, known as the Ravenswood Connector. The Ravenswood Connector is in line for a $66 million structure and track rehab, beginning next year, largely at the hands of Local 1.

The project is expected to shave 2-3 minutes off the average commute and improve passenger safety and reliability on a key segment of the Brown and Purple lines.

The Ravenswood Connector project is expected to create 180 new construction jobs. They include 60 iron workers, 35 of them new hires. Most of the new employees will be retained after the project is completed in 2014 to “accelerate preventive maintenance” on L structures, officials said.

The Brown Line is booming, providing 2 million additional rides last year.

“This is a sound agreement that protects taxpayers and increases efficiency,” Emanuel said in a statement.

“It is essential that we have world-class infrastructure in Chicago and this agreement allows us to maintain and improve our infrastructure in a responsible, forward-thinking way.”

The Iron Workers was one of only a handful of unions to endorse Emanuel before the 2011 mayoral election. Most unions either remained neutral or endorsed mayoral challenger Gery Chico.

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