MBTA Offering Voluntary Retirement to Reduce Staff

MBTA officials say the savings will be used to help close an estimated $80 million budget deficit

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is hoping to use a voluntary retirement program and other incentives to reduce its staffing level by 300 workers - a move aimed at saving the public transit agency about $25 million.

MBTA officials say the savings will be used to help close an estimated $80 million budget deficit.

One of the programs is targeted at the more than 1,100 transit workers already eligible for retirement as of the end of the year.

The agency is offering a one-time cash incentive to encourage workers to take the retirement offer. The average payment is about $16,500.

The T also is hoping to encourage the departure of workers not yet eligible for retirement, but who may be interested in leaving the agency. More than 2,200 employees who have worked for the MBTA for more than five years would be eligible.

The incentives include $5,000 for employees with five to 10 years of experience and $10,000 for employees with more than 10 years of experience.

The MBTA currently has more than 6,500 employees.

MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve said it's the first time since 1991 that the agency has taken such actions to reduce expenses linked to payroll.

"We're hoping through voluntary programs to give people the freedom and flexibility to choose" to leave the MBTA, Shortsleeve said.

The reductions are primarily aimed at the approximately 4,100 MBTA employees who aren't driving trains, subway cars or buses, Shortsleeve said. Those workers likely would have to be replaced to maintain service.

Information about the incentive programs will go out to eligible T workers on Thursday. Workers will have 30 days to review the information and respond if interested.

Shortsleeve said if the MBTA can hit its goal of reducing payroll by $25 million it could avoid major layoffs.

He said unions representing T workers have been included in the discussions about the voluntary retirement programs.

The MBTA is trying to erase a structural deficit that has been caused by expenses outstripping revenues.

"If we can't achieve these (payroll reduction) goals quickly, everything is on the table," Shortsleeve said.

The T's budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 includes a $43 million fare hike. Officials said they've also worked to rein in overtime expenses.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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