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Can tough-minded transit managers make a dent in 45-year-old union workrules? Boston thinks so. Two weeks ago the new general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, James F. O'Leary, saved $2 million by laying off 68 doormen, effectively reducing the crew of four-car subway trains from three to two. Doormen were paid about $25,000 a year.

The move provoked dire predictions of increased crime. But in fact, says Mr. O'Leary, crime on the ''T'' has decreased by 20 percent in the last two weeks.

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The decrease is probably coincidental. But the Carmen's Union is still grumbling about a possible strike, which could put a sharp crimp in downtown Christmas shopping.

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