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CTA To Hold Last Public Hearing On Budget

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago Transit Authority bus and train riders have one final chance to weigh in on the new budget for the agency.

The final public hearing for the budget will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at Kennedy-King College, at 63rd and Halsted streets in the Englewood neighborhood.

Occupy Chicago protesters are set to attend the hearing, along with CTA employees worried about losing their jobs in pensions.

The budget plan does not include any service cut or fare hikes, but CTA President Forrest Claypool says that may change if unions do not agree to work rule changes that he says will save more than $160 million. Claypool last month called said the work rules have been "encrusted like barnacles on the system for over three decades."

He said an additional $117 million in savings could be found through "management initiatives."

Claypool wants to begin talks with CTA unions as soon as possible and either reach agreement on a new contract that incorporates the work rule changes or an arbitrator's ruling by July 1. If the talks fail, he said CTA could raise fares, cut service and lay off as many as 1,000 workers.

Among the work rules Claypool wants to change is one that requires workers from three unions to change flat tires on buses in the field. He said separate crews must now operate within 100 yards of its Skokie Shops, requiring crews bringing trains to the facility to turn them over to another crew.

He said sick leave abuse requires CTA to carry more than double the number of spare bus drivers and rapid transit operators that it would otherwise. Most rapid transit systems employ extra operators, a practice known as the "extra board."

Claypool also singled out extra pay given to rapid transit operators at the beginning and end of their shifts, saying that it is a bonus "to show up early."

But Amalgamated Transit Union Division 308 President Robert Kelly, whose local represents employees on the 'L,' disagreed with Claypool's complaints last month.

Singling out the extra pay rule, Kelly said last month that CTA employees must complete office paperwork, go to the yard, check to see that they have the right train and check the train front to back to make sure there are no problems that would require its removal from service. He said all of that must be done within 10 minutes. At the end of each shift, he said, there are two minutes of extra pay, even though workers must walk front to back to make sure all passengers are off the train.

Kelly said the CTA should go ahead and raise fares by 25 cents to help balance the budget.

Hearings on the budget were held last week at Westinghouse High School, 3223 W. Franklin Blvd., and earlier this week at CTA Headquarters, 567 W. Lake St.

A vote on the budget will come next week.

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