The last 25 CTA rail car cleaners who were laid off last year will return to work this month under an agreement announced Thursday that also extends an apprenticeship program to give a second chance to convicted criminals released from prison.
The negotiated settlement between CTA management and the rail workers union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, resolves a longstanding work rule grievance filed by the union.
But it doesn't necessarily signal an easy path toward new collective-bargaining agreements when the existing union contracts expire Dec. 31. The CTA is seeking $80 million in work rule changes and other union concessions to help balance next year's budget.
Rail-car servicers account for the largest group of rail employees who have been the slowest to be recalled since the CTA laid off about 1,100 bus drivers, bus mechanics, train operators and other personnel in a February 2010 cost-cutting move that reduced bus and rail service. A total of 112 unionized rail employees, including about 50 car servicers, were laid off, officials said.
When the CTA laid off the car servicers, who earned $16 to $25.20 an hour, the transit agency hired more car service apprentices at $9.50 an hour with no benefits, union officials said. The apprenticeships last for nine months and the program was set to end this year.
The accord reached this week between CTA management Local 308 extends for two more years a program that began in 2008 to give ex-offenders as well as crime victims entry-level jobs at the CTA. Individuals participating in the apprentice program include sheltered women who have suffered domestic abuse, ex-offenders who have been convicted of non-violent crime and individuals recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, officials said.
CTA President Forrest Claypool called the agreement a "win-win situation for all involved.''
Robert Kelly, Local 308 president, said, "This shows that good things can happen when CTA management sits down with the union to solve problems.''
But Kelly added: "I do not take this to mean contract talks will go well. What it does indicate is what I have said all along – the talks need to come to me and not the media.''