A parade of public officials, plus one alleged, attempted shoe-thrower, went before the state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority today largely to berate the MTA for passing a budget that includes significant service cuts to subways and buses.
But the elected officials who took time out from their busy schedules to offer their criticism also should be criticizing themselves. Numbers-wise, while the MTA certainly can and should do much by itself to cut its white-collar staff, it won’t get its costs down to reasonable levels until it substantially renegotiates its biggest labor contract, with the city’s Transport Workers Union, as some numbers will help demonstrate.
Just look at the MTA’s headcount and proposed cuts. Of the MTA’s 70,000-odd workers, “administrative” workers make up about 7 percent, something that hasn’t changed much in the past few years.
These admin workers will take 14 percent of job cuts this year, however, or double their “fair share.” They’ll take 16 percent of the headcount cuts next year, and about 15 percent the following two years. These cuts will represent about a quarter of total dollar spending cuts next year.
These cuts may not be enough, but at least the concept is sound and the admin levels are going in the right direction. That is, disproportionate cuts are being taken in areas that should be invisible to the rider.
Meanwhile, other areas of the budget that the MTA can’t cut without significant contract changes — pensions, health benefits, and the like, largely for unionized workers — are, as I’ve noted, going quickly in the wrong direction.
But no elected official, from Comptroller William Thompson to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, was brave enough to say that the MTA’s unionized labor costs and rules are out of control.