Massachusetts Bay Transit bus contract talks continue
LIMESTONE, Maine — The Maine Military Authority has laid off 35 employees working on Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority buses as the two organizations continue to negotiate over cost overruns with the contract.
MMA announced late last Wednesday afternoon that 35 employees would be laid off effective that day, 20 days after workers at the state-run organization first received layoff notices. In September, Gov. Paul LePage’s administration put a pause on the $19 million contract to renovate 32 buses, saying the contract was underbid and could put Maine taxpayers at risk of having to cover cost-overruns.
“Despite constructive and positive discussions to resolve budget shortfalls for the Dual Mode Articulated Bus Midlife Overhaul Program, MMA and MBTA representatives have not reached an agreement,” read an Oct. 26 statement from MMA, which is run under the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management. “Discussions remain ongoing and we are hopeful that a solution will be reached and employees can return to work.”
The Maine Department of Labor’s Rapid Response Team is scheduled to meet with affected workers on Thursday, Oct. 27, according to the release.
Reached by phone early Wednesday evening, MMA Executive Director Hugh Corbett said that the layoff affects about half of MMA’s workforce. The other employees are continuing to work on projects not related to the MBTA contract, such as school bus refurbishing.
“We’re still working at it” and “looking to come to a positive solution,” Corbett said of the contract talks between MMA and MBTA.
The 2014 contract with MBTA called for refurbishing 32 diesel-electric public transit buses and adding another six years to their 12-year lifespan.
MMA was formed in 1997 to offer military vehicle repair services at the industrial park of the former Loring Air Force Base. After the drawdown of troops from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, MMA downsized and transitioned to servicing civilian vehicles.
The contract with MBTA was MMA’s first foray into major transit system buses and MMA was the sole bidder. The buses presented a number of challenges shortly after work began, said Brig. Gen. Douglas Farnham, Maine’s top military official, during a press conference in Limestone in late September.
Farnham said the cost overruns stemmed from “the complexity of the project, the condition of the incoming buses, some unexpected part variations and misunderstandings in the scope of work.” Other challenges have included the tight-turning nature of the highly maneuverable buses and their dual diesel-electric engines.