This story was originally published on May 9, 2019 by Jose Martinez at THE CITY

A crackdown on booming MTA overtime costs is coming — and carrying a whiff of labor unrest from transit workers.

“The company brought this problem upon themselves and now they’re trying to blame the workers,” John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union, told THE CITY on Thursday. “If they don’t want us to work overtime, then hire a few thousand [more] workers and the overtime will disappear.”

An emergency MTA board meeting is set for Friday afternoon to discuss overtime costs that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called “unacceptable.”

“The governor has made it clear that the MTA’s overtime costs are unacceptable and they have to do a better job reining in all of their spending, which has led to the dire financial situation,” said Patrick Muncie, a spokesperson for Cuomo.

An April report from the Empire Center for Public Policy highlighted a 16% surge last year in overtime costs at the MTA — where the $418 million payroll cost in 2018 was $82 million more than what the authority expects to take in from the last fare and toll increases.

Overtime pay at the Long Island Rail Road last year topped out at $224.6 million — a 30% increase from the previous year — while at New York City Transit, the overtime bill hit $119 million.

“It is the single-biggest cost to the MTA,” said Ken Girardin, an analyst at the Empire Center for Public Policy. “Sixty cents of every dollar the MTA spends are on personnel costs.”

‘Doling Out the Medicine’

Samuelsen, who also sits on the MTA board, said overtime is essential to maintaining the sprawling transit system.

“This system cannot be in a state of good repair without overtime,” he said. “They like doling out the medicine, but they don’t like it when it hits the fan.”

He added that the union was prepared to play hardball with the MTA during ongoing labor talks for a new contract. In 2014, the governor played a key role in breaking an impasse in contract talks between the MTA and TWU Local 100, and has since counted on the union as an ally.

Samuelsen said the relationship has been “productive.”

“At the end of the day, he has his interests and we’re representing New York City Transit workers,” he said. “There is always a chance a political relationship could go down the toilet.”

But with the MTA expected to face a $1 billion operating budget shortfall by 2022, the agency is facing pressure to curb its labor costs.

“I’m a supporter of organized labor — I’ve seen its value and the value of collective bargaining,” said Neal Zuckerman, an MTA board member. “But we have a financial imbalance and we have to find some way to make it work… Payroll is going up faster than fares.”

© 2019 THE CITY

This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York

Tags:

You may also like

Faced with $10B deficit, MTA says it’s eyeing cutting overtime spending

Alfonso Castillo The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is adding urgency to the agency’s efforts to curtail overtime numbers that critics say remain alarmingly high. The MTA said at Wed Read More

Editorial: Cuomo’s problematic Medicaid maneuvers

“It’s everything that’s wrong with Albany in one ugly deal,” Bill Hammond, a health policy expert at the fiscally conservative Empire Center, told The Times. Read More

Comptroller warns of financial distress at the MTA, and the MTA goes on a hiring spree

According to Ken Girardin, a labor analyst at the right-leaning Empire Center for Public Policy, every new police officer will cost the MTA roughly $56,000, which means the new personnel would initially cost the MTA roughly $28 million a year. Those costs should rapidly increase over time, as police salaries rapidly increase. Read More

LIRR union chief blames OT on inadequate staffing levels, increased workload

“That’s one heck of an incentive,” said E.J. McMahon, research director for the Empire Center for Public Policy, the organization that publicized the MTA’s alarmingly high overtime rate in an April MTA payroll report. Read More

MTA, LIRR union relationship worse than ever; up next is collective bargaining

The MTA’s heightened focus on overtime follows an April financial report from the Empire Center for Public Policy that revealed alarmingly high overtime rates among some MTA employees, including former LIRR chief measurement officer Thomas Caputo, who made $344,147 in overtime on top of his base salary of $117,499. Read More

EDITORIAL: The MTA’s culture of fraud

Raymond Murphy, a foreman with the LIRR’s Buildings and Bridges department, was one of the MTA’s top earners in 2017, pulling in $405,021, including $295,490 in OT, according to data compiled by the government watchdog Empire Center. Read More

MTA worker on family and medical leave got married, coached baseball instead: watchdog

DeLeon — who began at the MTA in 2007 and earned $44,754, according to the Empire Center — was fired by the agency. But he still kept his pension, according to sources close to the investigation. Read More

Top MTA cop busted blowing off work, using cruiser for suspected funeral gig: report

The cop — who earned $240,926 that year, according to the Empire Center — was then busted using his cruiser to make 14 visits in eight weeks to funeral homes on Staten Island, where investigators suspected he was moonlighting. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@empirecenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.