MBTA Union Says It Will Challenge New Phone Policy

This MBTA bus crash in Newton last month sparked a new cellphone policy for MBTA drivers.
This MBTA bus crash in Newton last month sparked a new cellphone policy for MBTA drivers.
Nicolaus Czarnecki/METRO

The union that represents MBTA operators issued a statement Tuesday saying it would fight the transit service’s new policy that would more strictly enforce a ban on bus and train drivers having a cellphone on their bodies while working.

While such a ban was already in place, the new policy would call for a 30-day suspension for drivers with an unconditional recommendation they be fired should they be found with a phone. The previous policy called for a 10-day suspension, and for drivers to be fired if they were found to be actively using the phone.

In a post on its website, the Boston Carmen’s Union suggested the policy was enacted too quickly, and with too heavy a hand.

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[O]ur Union is deeply disturbed by MBTA management's decision to turn bargained policy on its head, determining that all bus and transportation workers are guilty until proven innocent and declaring management judge, jury and executioner without due process.

There are times when alternative communications, like cellphones, are actually needed on the bus--on an urgent basis for everyone's protection. To the extent that the MBTA proposes to ban them all together, this policy offers no solution to safety emergencies.

The union also wrote that it had asked for a meeting with MBTA officials on Tuesday, but was denied. It wrote it plans to seek arbitration or a court order to allow for more time to bargain on the proposed policy. Reached by phone Wednesday, Carmen’s Union president James O’Brien said the union hoped to get in front of an arbitrator in July. He said if that avenue didn’t work, the union would look to the courts.

The T’s new policy was issued in the wake of last month’s bus crash in Newton, which saw an allegedly distracted driver direct a bus through a guardrail and dangling over I-90. The driver in that crash was fired by the T, and faces charges for lying to investigators in the following the crash after at first saying her phone was not involved.

But the union said the “rights of MBTA workers should not and will not be pushed aside in a rush to address an isolated situation.”