MBTA poised to award cash management contract to Brinks

By Andy Metzger, STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE - BOSTON, OCT. 5, 2016.....The private company Brinks would take over cash collection and counting work at the MBTA under a plan T management plans to present to its board Thursday, triggering objections from the labor union representing T workers.

MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve told reporters Wednesday that privatizing the cash handling with Brinks would save the financially strapped system $8.2 million in annual operating costs.

"This has already been decided, the way he makes this sound like this is going through tomorrow with no problem at all," said Boston Carmen's Union President James O'Brien. O'Brien and other Carmen officials attended a media briefing uninvited.

O'Brien said Shortsleeve over-counted the number of workers currently employed in cash handling and said T vending machines are "so messed up" that Brinks will be unable to deliver on accurate cash counts.

The "money room" in Charlestown, the center of the T's cash handling operation, has been subject to embarrassing disclosures about safety lapses as well as a photo published in the Boston Herald Friday of a worker lying down on the job while piles of cash sit at a desk.

O'Brien said the worker was a supervisor, not a member of the Carmen's Union, and the T had the photo for months before releasing it last week.

Disputing Shortsleeve's contention that there are 72 budgeted positions in the money room, O'Brien said, "There's more like 47 bodies and at then at the end of November there will only be like 33," in part because of retirements.

If the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board decides to privatize the money room Thursday it would represent the first time the T has actually taken advantage of the three-year leeway lawmakers granted it in 2015 to outsource services without vetting the move with the state auditor in accordance with the Pacheco law, according to Shortsleeve.

In addition to the operating budget savings, Shortsleeve said the move would allow the T to avoid $1.2 million in needed capital costs on trucks and facility upgrades, and the agency could potentially sell the Charlestown money room facility and the armored truck fleet for about $3.2 million.

With an operating deficit of more than $100 million in its roughly $2 billion budget this year, T officials have targeted the money room for savings. The money room counts $119 million in T revenue. With a cost of $11.8 million, including benefits, the current cash operations fail to meet industry standards on efficiency and accounting, according to T management.

With $3.5 billion in global revenue, Brinks has its own facilities, employees and vehicles, Shortsleeve said. Shortsleeve said the current money room workers would move back to prior positions, mostly driving buses, allowing the T to scale back its bus-driver hiring over the next few months.

An internal committee within the T selected Brinks's $3.6 million offer over the other bidder, GardaWorld, for $4.7 million.

"They had a clear pricing advantage," Shortsleeve said.

He said Brinks also had the "strongest footprint" in the Boston market, with clients such as JP Morgan Chase, CoinStar and Cumberland Farms. Brinks has unlimited liability insurance through Lloyds of London, Shortsleeve said.

O'Brien said the jobs should remain union positions, and he would challenge the state's eligibility for federal funding if the work is shifted without honoring the union's "labor protective rights."

"Private company is going to come in and underbid the contract," O'Brien told reporters. He said, "They're there to make a profit on the back of the taxpayers."

Shortsleeve, who is also acting general manager of the T, hardly missed a beat and didn't object as the union officials walked into the media briefing. The union members sat quietly and listened to his presentation before O'Brien addressed the media in the hallway.

"All budgeted positions will be eliminated," Shortsleeve said, continuing his presentation. "Employees will be able to transfer back into their operating roles."

If the control board moves ahead, the T will transition the operations over the next four months, Shortsleeve said.

The T also handles cash for Boston and Cambridge as well as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Shortsleeve said Cambridge has gone out to bid for cash handling.

The contract with Brinks would be a two-year deal with three additional one-year options. The MBTA's long-term plan is to completely overhaul its fare collection system, allowing customers to use bank cards or phones to pay rather than buying tickets or using Charlie cards.

"Our goal long-term is to be out of the cash business," Shortsleeve said. He said, "We'd like to have a system like London."

Copyright 2016 State House News Service

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