CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Transit Authority President Forrest Claypool is still hinting at a possible fare increase, after announcing the elimination of 200 non-union positions in an effort to partially fill a big budget hole.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports, when it comes to money to run the trains and buses, Claypool says the CTA “will need some help outside of areas” it controls.
This means even though the CTA is cutting some non-union jobs, it has to ask the unions for changes in work rules. Claypool calls the changes “common sense.”
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports
Does that also that mean a fare increase?
“We’ll let you know in a couple of weeks,” Claypool answered. “Our budget is coming due.”
The CTA says in total, cuts to more than 200 positions will save the CTA $22 million per year, when the agency’s deficit stands at $277 million. While some of the cuts will come from eliminating vacant positions, about two thirds will involve layoffs, the CTA said.
In addition to the cuts, the CTA has revised its sick and vacation policies, for a savings of another $15 million per year.
Claypool cannot unilaterally change union work rules, but he has been complaining about them for some time.
Last month, a Chicago Tribune analysis discovered that rampant employee absenteeism had led to long waits for CTA bus and ‘L’ train passengers. Claypool blamed the agency’s union contract and “work rules that are just absurd” for the problem.
Claypool said Monday that “tens upon tens upon tens of millions in dollars” can be saved if the CTA unions just bend on work rule changes when the union contracts expire at the end of the year.
But Amalgamated Transit Union Division 308 president Robert Kelly believes the union is being set up as a scapegoat.
“I’m guessing here that the CTA is trying to find a way to justify a raise come next year, and they want to blame it on the union employees,” Kelly said.
Kelly says the unions are not the problem.
“As long as Mr. Claypool continues to go out in the public, putting out these false, lying accusations, it will make negotiations suffer,” he said.
While Kelly says Claypool shouldn’t be negotiating in the media, Claypool says people have a right to know what is going on.
“This isn’t Kraft Foods,” Claypool said. “This is a public agency that spends taxpayer money.”
Claypool says the union’s current work rules are an “Alice in Wonderland” view of the world.
Kelly says he was encouraged to get a letter Monday from Claypool, saying the CTA wants to start contract talks as soon as possible.