Jul
13

Report: Despite staff cuts, MTA payroll up in 2010

By · Published in 2011

The MTA engaged in a very public and heated battle to slash staffing numbers last year in an effort to keep payroll expenses level, and it almost worked. According to a new report from the Empire Center, the MTA’s payroll increased by only $71 million — or 1.4 percent — last year as its headcount declined by 852 employees. The average MTA salary comes in at $71,237.

The report, a project of the conservative-leaning Manhanttan Institute, can be interpreted in numerous ways, and it again highlighted the MTA’s overtime expenses as labor costs will move to the forefront this fall. The topline findings are as they always are: More than 10 percent of the MTA’s workforce — administrative or otherwise — earned over $100,000 last year while 268 employees doubled their base pay through overtime and three tripled theirs. Jay Walder led the pack with his $350,000 salary while seven other executives earned more than $241,000. One Long Island Rail Road conductor earned $240,489, three times his base pay, through overtime while another took home $230,069. As the Center’s list of 100 highest paid employees shows, the top earners are split amongst administrative personnel and unionized workers.

The center, meanwhile, highlighted the engineers and conductors making bank via overtime. They found the following in the $150,000 club:

  • 53 Metro-North conductors who averaged $90,367 over their base salaries of $76,127;
  • 19 Long Island Railroad foremen who averaged $82,111 over their base salaries of $81,946; and
  • 15 Metro-North engineers who averaged $75,929 over their base salaries of $80,521.

The MTA laid the blame for the payroll increase on the shoulders of its unionized workers. “In 2010, the MTA eliminated 3,500 positions, froze managerial salaries for the third straight year and cut 15% of administrative payroll, en route to an annual budget savings of more than $500 million,” the authority said in a statement. “Nonetheless, payroll did increase from 2009 to 2010 due to the 4% wage increase awarded by an arbitrator to the members of TWU Local 100.”

Nicole Gelinas analyzed the numbers and found that with fewer workers, those remaining are earning more due either to the TWU raises or overtime. She again noted how benefits have backed the MTA into a corner. “Without a doubt, these jobs are tough; it’s easier to write newspaper columns than to walk hot tracks or sit in a booth all night. But these jobs are not poorly paid,” she wrote. “The average New Yorker in the private sector earns about $55,120. The MTA worker earns 31 percent more — and has retirement security, while people in the private sector worry about whether they’ll be able to retire at all.”

Lee Zelding, the payroll tax employees who seemingly fails to understand how MTA payroll expenses and overtime allocation work, also issued a pointed statement: “Once again, a new report has been released highlighting the MTA’s continued fiscal mismanagement. This time the issue is with the MTA’s payroll. Whether it’s increasing payroll expenses, excessive salaries for administration, or abusive overpayments to employees, the MTA continues to come up short in bringing the expense side of the ledger in line with the revenue side of the ledger,” he said without making much sense.

Ultimately, it’s going to cost money for the MTA to stay afloat. New York straphangers want clean subways, and they want on-time performance. They want better facilities and more reliable rush hour trips. They want things that cost money — from track worker salaries to management. The MTA is going to try to freeze wages. Yet, at a certain point, overtime expenses are cheaper than hiring more workers, and labor costs are relatively fixed. That payroll went up only by 1.7 percent seems like a step in the right direction even if the path to fiscal responsibility has a long way to go.



Categories : MTA Economics

36 Responses to “Report: Despite staff cuts, MTA payroll up in 2010”

  1. Andrew D. Smith says:

    Are these total compensation figures — including health benefits and pensions and all — or just wage/salary?

    • BrooklynBus says:

      Good Question because I am totally confused. I thought managers are not supposed to earn overtime, only comp time. So I’d like to know why the total pay of so many managers exceeds their base pay. (Also, the headings are reversed on page 2.)

      Second, take Joseph Smith for example who has since retired. Let’s just look at his base pay of approximately $234,000. Last year I recall he was making $199,000. I thought there was a pay freeze or small merit increases of several percent. His duties have not changed since he took over all bus operations, so why did he receive a 17% increase? (His total pay is much higher.)

      I actually used to work with and know some of these people and can’t believe how high their salaries have risen in the past 10 years. Looks like they doubled.

  2. nycpat says:

    Once again not one TWU Local 100 member in either list.

  3. BBnet3000 says:

    I dont even have a problem with experienced guys getting paid $150k, with these two caveats:

    1) Their original salary is HALF that much. Come on now.

    2) The word on the interwebs is that guys do this in their final 3 years of service, since pensions are frequently based on the last 3 years or service (or something along those lines).

  4. Bill says:

    Blame the MTA! Blame the MTA!

    It doesn’t matter about whose actually responsible!

    Blame the MTA!

  5. Alon Levy says:

    There’s a huge difference between being serious about cutting labor costs and publicly shaming every worker who raises his head instead of being a good peon. Very Serious People rarely have good ideas; they have ideas that are tough for the sake of being tough.

  6. Bolwerk says:

    Some of these overtime costs seem like simple mismanagement.

    Very crude analysis of how to save money on the conductors: hire 43 more full time workers?

    * Base pay: $76,127 for a conductor, presumably a 40-hour work week comes to $1464/week base pay, or $36.60/hour base pay.

    * Time-and-a-half for the conductors would therefore be $54.90/hour. Each of these workers is averaging close to 32 hours/week of overtime.

    * Overtime hours: The additional $90,367/year in overtime therefore amounts to 1,646 more hours per year per worker (90,367/54.90), or 87,241 overtime hours per year for 53 workers.

    * Assuming an average base working rate of 2080 hours/year, it would be cheaper to hire another 43 full time conductors at the same base pay above – maybe out of the pool of laid off cleaners, booth attendants, and bus drivers.

    * The savings: (54.90*87,241) vs. (43*2080*36.60) or $4,789,451 vs. 3,273,461. Roughly $1,515,947/year saved.

    At least, that would save money assuming entitlements and benefits for 43 additional workers doesn’t eat up the savings. I’m not clear about that.

    Not saying no one should ever use overtime, but if they’re missing the mark on their labor needs by that much, something is seriously wrong.

    • Andrew says:

      I think you’re forgetting about benefits.

      You’re also forgetting that a conductor has to work complete trips – he can’t go off-duty at a random station mid-route because he’s hit 8 hours. Either he has to complete the trip and earn overtime or he has to stop working before the trip starts and get paid for more time than he works.

      And a full-time employee can’t fill in for a random hour here and half-hour there. How much overtime can you absorb through consecutive 8-hour shifts?

      Finally, there’s plenty of unscheduled overtime – trains running late due to service outages, snow preparations, etc.

      • BrooklynBus says:

        And don’t forget about workers who call in sick. Their shifts have to be covered. It’s not fair to the passengers to not operate a bus that has 30 minute headways because the operator got sick. His shift needs to be covered by others working overtime. There were at least a few instances where Walder purposely did not cover these because of a beef with the union and he wanted to show he was cutting overtime. The riders become just pawns when this happens.

        • Andrew says:

          Agreed. Sick abuse is a far greater problem than overtime abuse.

        • Bolwerk says:

          This, again, is something that’s easy enough to estimate. Additional hires should be made accordingly, and little overtime should ever be necessary.

          It might really be better to have one guy sitting idle sometimes than to have a bunch doing overtime because a bunch more are faking being sick.

        • Phillip Roncoroni says:

          It’s not fair to the passengers to not operate a bus that has 30 minute headways because the operator got sick.

          This is, I assume, what happened to me last month on Staten Island. 30-minute headways and the bus never showed up. Absolutely ridiculous that they wouldn’t have somebody else fill that shift.

      • Bolwerk says:

        I did not forget benefits; I said above I wasn’t sure how they factor in. As for conductors, it shouldn’t be too hard to schedule one to meet another to finish his trip and have the first return. Of course it will never perfectly correlate to a shift, but it can be made to come as close as possible. At least a lot of “unscheduled” overtime should be possible to estimate statistically.

        The idea is not to eliminate overtime, but to minimize it.

        • nycpat says:

          I believe RR workers can work their vacations; adding as much as 5 weeks pay per annum. Also, unlike transit, they can work 7 days a week. I suppose this saves the RRs money but it looks bad to people who work M-F 9-5.

        • Andrew says:

          It is actually quite hard to reliably schedule a meet like that – what if there’s a delay on the train the new conductor is on?

          Not that it matters, since the old conductor is contractually entitled to be paid until he returns to the location he started at.

          The idea is not to minimize overtime, but to use overtime strategically, where is it less costly than the other options.

          • Bolwerk says:

            Yes, agreed. It’s hard, but not impossible, and certainly it is possible to do it as reasonably close to the point where you don’t waste much money as possible.

            But…delays should be a rarity, not a given. Trains should meet each other when scheduled. If there really needs to be 7m of padding time, the train the conductor is alighting from should arrive 7m before the train he is transferring to.

  7. Donald says:

    So rather than whine about overtime costs, what is the solution to the problem? Hire more workers? That costs even more than giving overtime.

    • BrooklynBus says:

      You are correct. That’s why I think too much of an emphasis is being placed on cutting overtime. They need to get the work rules changed to eliminate unnecessary overtime. The LIRR is notorious for this. Some or most overtime is just necessary. It is not the evil that management makes it out to be.

      • A minor but important point: I don’t believe management is making overtime out to be evil; I think conservative politicians and newspaper columnists are. In my discussions with management on both the MTA and labor side, both parties have said they recognize the need for overtime and flexibility both because of the demands of the services as discussed above and because overtime can, if used properly, be cheaper than bringing on more employees. The issue that management wants to combat is overtime abuse, which is not the same as flat-out overtime.

  8. Phillip Roncoroni says:

    NYCERS pensions are based on amount of years worked * a multiplier value * FAS (final average salary, of your final three years).

  9. Andrew says:

    Tom Prendergast makes less than $178,488?

  10. Ben Fried says:

    Ben, I think in this post you wrote the best attribution in the history of journalism:

    “Once again, a new report has been released highlighting the MTA’s continued fiscal mismanagement. This time the issue is with the MTA’s payroll. Whether it’s increasing payroll expenses, excessive salaries for administration, or abusive overpayments to employees, the MTA continues to come up short in bringing the expense side of the ledger in line with the revenue side of the ledger,” he said without making much sense.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] The MTA laid the blame for the payroll increase on the shoulders of its unionized workers. “In 2010, the MTA eliminated 3,500 positions, froze managerial salaries for the third straight year and cut 15% of administrative payroll, en route to an annual budget savings of more than $500 million,” the authority said in a statement. “Nonetheless, payroll did increase from 2009 to 2010 due to the 4% wage increase awarded by an arbitrator to the members of TWU Local 100.” via secondavenuesagas.com […]

  2. […]  MTA Payroll Inched Up in 2010, Or: MTA Payroll Inched Up in 2010! (2nd Ave Sagas) […]

  3. […] The MTA laid the blame for the payroll increase on the shoulders of its unionized workers. “In 2010, the MTA eliminated 3,500 positions, froze managerial salaries for the third straight year and cut 15% of administrative payroll, en route to an annual budget savings of more than $500 million,” the authority said in a statement. “Nonetheless, payroll did increase from 2009 to 2010 due to the 4% wage increase awarded by an arbitrator to the members of TWU Local 100.” via secondavenuesagas.com […]

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