Readers Write: MTA overtime is still out of control

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Readers Write: MTA overtime is still out of control
Recent news that overtime for MTA employees grew to a record $1.4 billion in 2023 is nothing new. The ongoing problems of excessive overtime of over $1 billion annually for MTA employees has gone on since 2018.
This is despite repeated promises by current MTA Chairman Janno Lieber and his predecessor, Pat Foye, LIRR President Richard Free, and his predecessors Catherine Rinaldi and Philip Eng along with other MTA operating agency presidents to significantly reduce excessive employee overtime. It will never be resolved until real change is implemented by MTA leadership.
 
Every generation of MTA chairmen, agency presidents, board members, finance officers and executive management who manage agency budgets, since the 1980s has made the wrong choice. 
They believed it would be cheaper to pay overtime than hire additional employees, whose critical specialized skills were necessary for maintaining functioning safe and reliable transportation operations. 
They thought it would be less expensive by avoiding the costs of training, full-time salary plus fringe, medical insurance and pensions by not increasing the headcounts of various departments.  This has contributed to excessive overtime expenses..
 
There is a difference between necessary overtime due to malfunctioning equipment, accidents or adverse weather conditions when attempting to restore service vs. others.
 
There is still significant overtime abuse and out-of-control pensions. Employees with seniority in their last year of employment enjoy lots of overtime.  This results in record pensions upon retirement the following year.
 
MTA management needs to reduce mandatory excessive overtime and double shifts to complete capital projects. This is sometimes done to placate public officials so they may participate in ribbon- cutting ceremonies during election seasons.
 
MTA union leadership consistently out negotiates management when it comes to work rules and assignments, medical insurance contributions and pensions.
 
There is still ongoing recording of time and attendance that relies on a honor system.  How effective have the installation of biometric time clocks connected into the MTA Payroll System?  
How many supervisors continue signing off on overtime work hour abuses by employees and are not held accountable by their own supervisors?  Private sector business would have an up-to-date time, attendance and payroll system years ago.  They would insist on documented justification for employee overtime pay.      
 
The MTA continues to be unsuccessfully in negotiating contracts with NYC Transit bus, subway, Staten Island Rail Way, MTA Bus, Long Island and Metro North Rail Road unions to include more flexible work assignments. 
The option to contract out more work to the private sector or hiring part time employees must be more readily available as appropriate without sacrificing the safety and system reliability that riders count on.  
Salary increases should never exceed the Consumer Price Index.  Employees need to increase contributions toward medical insurance and retirement pensions just as other government, private sector employees, taxpayers and commuters do. 
Future pensions must be calculated based on the final year’s base salary and not inflated by overtime.  Federal civil servants pensions are calculated based on the average for the last three years of employment. Overtime is not included in determining the pension of federal employees.  
Allow MTA workers to remain part time while collecting a portion of their pension.  This affords experienced employees time to train replacements and be available during emergencies.
Many federal agencies already offer this opportunity to employees who are contemplating full retirement. A larger pool of employees including those part time could help deal with morning and evening peak service requirements along with unanticipated emergency disruptions.
Allow unions to bid on projects like the private sector.  Offer union employees bonuses like outside vendors when completing projects ahead of schedule or under budget.  Share these cost savings with union employees
 
Every dollar counts be it generated by riders paying at the fare box, city, state or Federal Transit Administration grants. Taxpayers expect nothing less.
Larry Penner
Great Neck
Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously served as a former Director for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office of Operations and Program Management.

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