Following this morning’s meeting, Jay Walder spent a few minutes talking to reporters about the upcoming layoffs soon to impact the MTA. The personnel reductions will go into effect in 60 days, and the 1000 jobs on the chopping block will be the first in what could be a wave of layoffs this year.
The agency, said Walder, is now facing a $750 million deficit that has emerged since December, and the agency looks to save money both for its 2010 fiscal year and going forward, it will have to learn to operate as a leaner organization. “The reality is that the vast majority of our costs are labor,” Walder said at his press conference. “[The MTA’s savings] will come in the form of layoffs.”
For now, the first round of cuts for New York City Transit will target approximately 500 station agents and 600 administrative personnel. The Long Island Rail Road announced that it would shave 150 jobs as well. There, 90 administrative positions will go, and 60 engineers and conductors will lose their jobs as well. “My sense is that there will be additional staff reductions from consolidations that the MTA will be focused on,” LIRR President Helena Williams said to Newsday today.
During his press conference, Walder repeatedly stressed how the MTA will follow agreed-upon collective bargaining provisions for layoffs. “We will be following all of the negotiated arrangements,” he said more than once. According to a Pete Donohue article, the TWU’s agreement with the MTA once had a no-layoffs provisions, but it was “traded away” during the 2002 labor negotiations. The MTA does not have to offer severance to its unionized employees, and the severance package for the axed administrative personnel will be based on senior and will not exceed $20,000, Walder said.
The TWU, meanwhile, is attempting to evaluate its position. According to a report this morning in amNew York, the MTA offered to avert these layoffs in exchange for a pay freeze, but the TWU rejected that offer. After engaging in a legal fight for its raises — raises that are costing the MTA $100 million in money it doesn’t have this year — the TWU is not going to give those up so quickly.
Yet at a time when agency finances are sour and everyone else is paying the price, the TWU is celebrating its raises and vowing a fight. In a website announcement informing its members of higher salaries, TWU President John Samuelsen promised to combat the layoffs. “I realize that it has been a long and frustrating wait” for the raises, he said. “But the wait is over. We can now move on to devote our full attention to current battle to preserve transit jobs and service, and to prevent the MTA from balancing its self-inflicted budget wounds on the backs of Local 100 members and New York’s working families.”
Considering how the MTA is balancing its Albany-inflicted budget wounds on the backs of every single transit-dependent New Yorker, that’s a bold claim by Samuelsen. Still, I would expect nothing less from a union president who must protect his members’ interests, jobs and money.
These cuts, though, are just the first of many. During his press conference, Walder did not beat around the bush. As the service cuts are implemented, he said, the MTA will probably have to lay off more workers, unionized or not. The agency is planning to overhaul the way it does business administratively, and unless Albany is willing to step in and do what it must, we will soon see an MTA operating with fewer services and far fewer employees.