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12/07/77 CITY BOSTON & OTHERS v. MASSACHUSETTS BAY

December 7, 1977

CITY OF BOSTON & OTHERS
v.
MASSACHUSETTS BAY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY & OTHERS



Suffolk. Civil action commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk on January 3, 1977. Upon transfer to the Superior Court the case was heard by Linscott, J. The Supreme Judicial Court granted a request for direct appellate review.

Hennessey, C.j., Quirico, Kaplan, Liacos, & Abrams, JJ.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Budget, Advisory board.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Abrams

The Advisory Board of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority had the power to reduce the wage item included in the authority's budget under the provisions of G. L. c. 161A, § 5 (i); the authority, however, had the power to determine the manner in which the reduced wage item was to be allocated. [823-824]

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority was not required by G. L. c. 161A, § 5 (i), to list as a separate item in its budget the amount estimated for cost-of-living wage increases. [828-829]

The main question presented by this action is whether the Advisory Board of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (Advisory Board) is authorized by G. L. c. 161A, § 5 (i), to reduce the wage item found in the proposed budget of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and also to direct that the MBTA not pay cost-of-living wage adjustments contained in its collective bargaining agreements. We hold that under G. L. c. 161A the Advisory Board has the authority to reduce the wage item of the budget, but that it is the MBTA's responsibility to decide the manner in which the funds for wages are to be allocated. *fn1 Thus we agree with the result reached by the Superior Court but order that the judgment entered be modified to reflect a declaration of the rights of the parties.

The plaintiffs -- the city of Boston, twelve other cities and towns within the MBTA territory, *fn2 and Kevin H. White, as representative of the Advisory Board -- brought an action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief enjoining the defendant MBTA *fn3 from paying certain of its employees during 1977 approximately $6,000,000 in cost-of-living wage increases which the Advisory Board had voted to eliminate from the MBTA's budget of current expenses for 1977. Representatives of all the labor organizations (unions) which have cost-of-living increase provisions in their agreements with the MBTA were either named as defendants or have intervened. *fn4

A single Justice denied injunctive relief and transferred the complaint to the Superior Court. Cross motions for summary judgment were filed by the plaintiffs and the defendant MBTA. A Judge of the Superior Court, after receiving a recommendation from a special master, granted the MBTA's motion for summary judgment, denied the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, and entered judgment for the defendants. *fn5 The plaintiffs appealed. We granted the plaintiffs' request for direct appellate review.

The facts are as follows. The MBTA is a "body politic and corporate and a political subdivision of the commonwealth." G. L. c. 161A, § 2, inserted by St. 1964, c. 563, § 18. It is authorized by c. 161A to construct, provide, and operate mass transportation services within the cities and towns of the Commonwealth whose territory and inhabitants constitute the MBTA. G. L. c. 161A, § 3. The MBTA's affairs are managed by a board of five directors who are appointed by the Governor. G. L. c. 161A, § 6. The directors of the MBTA are authorized to fix the compensation and conditions of employment of employees, G. L. c. 161A, § 3 (d), and to bargain collectively with labor organizations and enter into agreements with such organizations concerning wages, G. L. c. 161A, § 19. General Laws c. 161A, §§ 19 and 19A, authorize arbitration as a means of resolving disputes between the employees and the MBTA.

The Advisory Board to the MBTA consists of representatives of the cities and towns which constitute the MBTA. G. L. c. 161A, § 7. The Advisory Board has authority to approve or reduce the itemized annual budget of the MBTA. G. L. c. 161A, § 5 (i).

Since about 1951, the collective bargaining agreements between the MBTA and the unions have contained provisions for periodic cost-of-living increases in wages during the term of the agreements. According to the record, these increases have been effected by increasing the hourly wage rate. The collective bargaining agreements for the years 1976-1977 provided for a suspension of the cost-of-living increases for the last three quarters of 1976, and a resumption of the usual quarterly adjustments effective January 1, 1977, and quarterly thereafter. *fn6

Pursuant to G. L. c. 161A, § 5 (i), the MBTA submitted to the Advisory Board a budget of current expenses for 1977. The budget contained the sum of $121,129,474 under the heading of "Wages." This amount included the estimated cost-of-living increases for 1977. The Advisory Board voted to reduce the wage item by $6,153,210, the amount estimated by the Board to be necessary to meet the cost-of-living wage increases. The Advisory Board also voted that the MBTA was to be restricted from transferring any funds into the wage item during 1977.

Notwithstanding the vote of the Advisory Board to reduce the wage item in the 1977 budget by an amount estimated to be necessary to fund the cost-of-living increases, the MBTA has paid the quarterly cost-of-living increases due in January, March, June, ...


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