As Cuts Begin, CTA Unions Want to Talk

Longer wait times and route eliminations are in place

The dreaded service cuts and layoffs at the CTA got under way Sunday, and no sooner than they started, leaders of one of the CTA's biggest unions sent out a message saying they wanted to talk.

The CTA is trying to fill a $95 million hold in the agency's 2010 budget. Transit Authority leaders say non-union employees have made concessions, and now they need the unions to pony up. But union leaders have said their members have made too many sacrifices in the past, and they can't make new concessions.

That is, at least until Sunday rolled around. Just before noon, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241, which represents bus drivers and mechanics, sent out a release saying the union was committed to holding "immediate and sincere" discussions with CTA management.

Mayor Daley failed to broker an agreement between CTA officials and union leaders Friday, so CTA service cuts began taking effect Sunday.  Those cuts include laying off about 1,100 union workers. As the reality of those job losses came to fruition, it seems the ATU may have developed a renewed willingness to negotiate.

Union leaders said the meeting with Daley did help smooth things over between the unions and CTA officials, but it was just too late to stop the cuts.

“We were at a stalemate. He did open the dialogue. That’s a start,” said Robert Kelly, head of Amalgamated Transit Union 308, which represents rail workers, reported the Sun Times.

CTA officials have also said they are willing to sit down with the unions again, but the layoffs and cuts are going through.

Terry Peterson, CTA chairman, promised staff would work around the clock to restore service and jobs if the two sides can reach a deal within the next few weeks.

Peterson said the CTA is willing to listen to cost-cutting ideas from the unions, so hopefully an agreement will come soon.

The cuts eliminate nine express bus routes, and leave riders coping with longer wait times on 119 other bus routes and seven rail lines, as well as shorter hours on 41 additional bus routes.

CTA President Richard Rodriguez recommended riders give themselves 30 extra minutes for their commute, to feel out how long it's going to take.  He said even if a bus or train comes, the longer times between rides may mean there's no space, and you'll have to wait for the next one -- especially during rush hour.

"Today is the first day that the service reductions are in place," Rodriguez said in a release. "Sadly, this also is the day more than 1,000 employees have been laid off. We’re continuing to work with the unions in the hopes of identifying savings so that some service and jobs can be restored."

The CTA said it will closely monitor ridership this week to see if adjustments to the service cuts need to be made.

Check out a map of how the service cuts will affect the city here, and a complete list of the CTA service changes here.

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