CFL News
November 16, 2011

Sun-Times Editorial: Blaming CTA workers won’t balance budget

An editorial by Chicago Sun-Times warns CTA President Forrest Claypool not to blame workers for the agency's financial troubles

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

By Editorial

Unionized employees at the CTA get their birthday off, with full pay.

Isn’t that precious?

Actually, when you put it that way, as CTA President Forrest Claypool did during a recent visit to the Sun-Times editorial board, it does sound pretty outrageous.

But look at it this way: A birthday holiday is just a vacation day, like any other, with a cute name on it. Claypool’s real beef is simply with the number of vacation days employees get, whatever they are called.

He thinks they get too many. The unions think otherwise.

So let them fight it out — without the spin and mockery.

By making extra vacation days sound like an outrageous perk, Claypool is positioning the CTA for the upper hand in negotiations with the unions whose contracts expire Dec. 31. And it’s his job to try to get the best deal he can for riders and taxpayers.

On Tuesday, the CTA approved a $1.24 billion budget for 2012 that builds in expected savings from union contracts. Having already trimmed $117 million from its budget, the agency is looking for another $160 million in savings from work rule changes, health care revisions and smaller raises than in the past contracts, which were negotiated before the 2008 recession hit.

Claypool and the CTA deserve credit for already finding many places to trim. Layoffs have reduced the agency’s head count to an all-time low, and supply-chain reforms have cut costs.

But those savings aren’t enough. So, as part of the run-up to the negotiations, Claypool has been publicly ridiculing “red tape” work rules that waste millions.

No doubt some work rules can be altered or abolished to save real money. But to cite an example, when CTA L workers are paid for 15 minutes before their first train rolls out — time in which they are expected to inspect the trains — it’s not fair to call that an example of “pay for no work.”

We like the CTA’s commitment to better management practices, such as putting aside more money for upkeep. We get the challenges of declining tax revenue and expensive state mandates. We know balancing this budget, while holding the line on fares and avoiding service cuts, is a big job.

But let’s not blame the workers.

Copyright © 2011 — Sun-Times Media, LLC