Union, MTA square off over work rules changesBy
In just 30 days from now, the current contract between the TWU and the MTA will expire, and while a strike seems rather unlikely, so too does a smooth resolution of the labor situation. The MTA, under Jay Walder, had pledged a net-zero increase in labor costs, and the authority’s long-term budget planning dictates such a result. Union leaders, on the other hand, realize such a commitment means firings or wage freezers for their members. It’s turning out to be quite a stalemate.
One of the key areas of concern for the MTA focuses around workrules. The authority wants more flexibility in defining jobs. There’s no reason why a station cleaner can’t also address routine maintenance concerns, and yet, as Pete Donohue reported yesterday, the TWU is pushing back on these issues. He writes:
The MTA is seeking dozens of work-rule changes it believes will increase productivity and reduce labor costs. Generally, it wants to break down previously negotiated barriers establishing the different pay rates and tasks for job titles like cleaner and station maintainer.
The Transport Workers Union is willing to negotiate reasonable contract changes, Local 100 President John Samuelsen said. Loading more chores on station cleaners may not fit that description, in his view.
“They don’t have enough cleaners in stations to keep them clean right now, which is why there’s a rat problem,” Samuelsen said. “Taking them away from their duties to do something else doesn’t seem to make sense,” he said. “They have the right to bargain over what they want — but that’s not something we’re interested in doing.”
Of course, as president of the union, Samuelsen won’t admit to any concessions in the pages of a major daily newspaper. They are going to come though one way or another.
As Donohue relates, asking cleaners to “change a light bulb or unclog the toilet” is but one in a series of work rule revisions the authority has requested. The management also would like to require bus drivers to help change tires and refuel their vehicles. The MTA wants to eliminate rest periods at terminals following end-to-end subway runs, and they want to cut the full-time staff who must work at least eight hours by 20 percent. These are no small demands.
Right now, negotiations are in the early stages, and both sides are angling for good press. The MTA though simply cannot afford labor increases. After losing out on a few hundred million dollars as state tax revenues fell short and the payroll tax was partially repealed, a labor increase would put further pressure on the authority’s bottom line. Bigger operational issues — such as system-wide OPTO and overtime reform — might have to wait it out as well. What the next thirty days may bring will have an impact on our transit system one way or another.