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Ex-Felons To Keep Jobs With CTA, Cleaning Buses

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It appears that 60 ex-felon apprentice car-cleaners will keep their jobs at the CTA -- but they will be cleaning buses instead of rapid transit cars for the foreseeable future.

CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase said agreement was reached between CTA and Amalgamated Transit Union Division 241, the local that represents bus drivers and mechanics, and not with Division 308, the local that represents rapid transit employees.

The vitriol that has characterized the discussions over the apprenticeship program continues, each side calling the other "liars."

Ex-Cons To Keep CTA Jobs

Division 308 President Robert Kelly said, in a statement, that CTA knew all along that the apprenticeship jobs to clean the bus fleet were open. Chase said CTA intended to hire other ex-convicts to fill those positions, but transferred the 60 from the railcar apprentice program, which now will be on hiatus.

Kelly has contended that the apprenticeship program is nothing but "an effort to get cheap labor," because of the lower pay given to the apprentices, $9.50 an hour without benefits. He demanded higher wages and benefits in order for the program to continue.

Chase said Kelly remains adamant, while she said CTA is simply interested in providing the ex-convicts with a second chance.

"We're so relieved that Local 241, the bus operators, were willing to work with us to get these folks back on track, working, learning job skills and getting on with their lives," Chase said.

Chase said CTA's focus was to get the workers transferred from the rail car apprentice program to the bus cleaning program. Once done, CTA will attempt to continue discussions with Kelly to revive the program aboard CTA trains.

Kelly claims he is pleased with CTA's move, saying in the statement that he "hopes everyone makes the best of their second chance, something 308 believe in."

The program has been in existence since 2007, and Chase said approximately 800 ex-convicts have cycled through it, mostly those with non-violent criminal convictions.

Chase said the work that the apprentices will perform aboard CTA buses will be much the same as they have done aboard 'L' trains and will play an important role in CTA's effort to provide riders a cleaner environment.

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