The Transport Workers Union Local 100 executive committee Aug. 19 voted unanimously to turn down a Metropolitan Transportation Authority initial contract offer that Local 100 President Tony Utano described as “insulting.”
The existing contract expired May 15.
Management’s offer came as it said it faced a more-than $1-billion-shortfall by 2020, despite a future infusion of a billion dollars in additional revenue from congestion pricing for much of Manhattan that was approved in Albany.
Pressure to Cut Jobs
The agency is also in the midst of a state-mandated reorganization that its management consultant said should feature the elimination of 2,700 jobs for an annual savings of a half-billion dollars.
There is an ongoing public-relations battle between the two sides over who is to blame for a $418 million spike in overtime costs for 2018, a 16-percent rise that was first reported in May by the Empire Policy Center, a conservative think tank.
The union faults the agency, because it hired no more than 800 transit workers for an improvement plan that originally required 2,000 to get the system back to a state of good repair. “When you want to increase service delivery and you want to increase the state of repair of the track and you need 2,000 bodies and you don’t hire them, you know what you do? You pay overtime,” said John Samuelsen, the TWU’s International president and an MTA Board member.
At the July 24 MTA board meeting, Chairman Pat Foye fingered existing union contract provisions that he said over the last 10 years had resulted in the average employee availability “consistently” trending “down to current levels.”
That increasing lack of availability for work “impacts overtime because employees who are out must be backfilled, usually on overtime,” Mr. Foye reasoned.
He said union workers averaged between 198 and 208 days of work, or roughly 40 weeks a year of availability “subtracting vacation days, sick days, holidays, injured on the job.”
Change Overtime Trigger?
Not surprisingly, the MTA offer included a provision that would require Local 100 members to work a full 40 hours before getting overtime, the Daily News reported. Currently, overtime starts after eight hours of a shift.
In addition, the agency wants management to be able to change the contract if average worker availability does not increase by an average of three days per year.
The transit agency also wants to extend a “one-time” exception it negotiated that permitted nonunion contractors to do station- and subway-car cleaning.
Attempts by both MTA Finance Chair Larry Schwartz, a former top aide to Governor Cuomo, and the Governor himself to claim high overtime totals were a product of criminal conduct by some employees produced furious responses from union officials.
Report Faults MTA
At the MTA’s Aug. 16 meeting the TWU got a vindication when Carrie Cohen, the Special Counsel the agency appointed to look into the overtime controversy, in a 57-page analysis faulted MTA management.
“For years, MTA leadership at all levels has been on notice of management’s failures to address overtime issues but has permitted these failures to persist unabated,” Ms. Cohen wrote. “By not addressing long-recognized overtime issues, MTA leadership has failed in its duty to safeguard the public’s funds and ensure that waste, fraud, and abuse are deterred and prevented.”
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