Home Asides Daily News: TWU must be prepared for ‘tightened belts’

Daily News: TWU must be prepared for ‘tightened belts’

by Benjamin Kabak

As 2012 dawned, the day of reckoning for the MTA and TWU drew ever closer. In 12 days, the union’s current contract will expire, and John Samuelsen and Joe Lhota are working to forge a settlement. Still, the MTA’s fiscal reality requires a net-zero increase in labor costs or else the riders will have to pay. That is a point not lost on the editorial boards of the city’s newspapers.

Yesterday, the Daily News’ editors chimed in with their take on the labor situation. Noting that an arbitration panel recently determined that Long Island Bus workers will have to forego their expected three percent raises in 2011 since the MTA doesn’t have the money for it, the News called upon the TWU to take note and expect to give out concessions. “This is a time for tightened belts,” the editorial said. “Any and all raises will have to be bought with work rule changes and productivity gains.”

Over the last three years, as TWU members have enjoyed raises, the MTA has slashed its administrative payroll while freezing wages. It’s creating to something of a brain drain at MTAHQ, but that’s a problem for a different post. Now, it’s time for the TWU to show flexibility. As the News says to Samuelsen, “He should remember that the best interests of all concerned — taxpayers, riders and workers — are to keep the MTA as efficient as it can be.” That will be a key point over the next few weeks as the two sides work toward a deal.

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22 comments

oscar January 3, 2012 - 11:58 am

I think you mean “forge a settlement” ?

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Scott E January 3, 2012 - 1:14 pm

Interesting you mention Long Island Bus. I see they are nowhere mentioned on the MTA.info website. I’d love to see how that turns out…

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Scott E January 3, 2012 - 1:14 pm

(referring to the separation from the MTA, of course. I forgot to mention that above)

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Larry Littlefield January 3, 2012 - 2:17 pm

“Still, the MTA’s fiscal reality requires a net-zero increase in labor costs or else the riders will have to pay.”

No one is proposing or discussing this. Even if there are no cash wage increases, pension costs will continue to rise due to past unfunded retroactive enhancements. So riders will pay.

And the most likely productivity improvements will involve less work done, not work done more productively. The same wages will also involve less work. So riders will pay again.

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Donald January 3, 2012 - 5:43 pm

How does one work more productively in the MTA? It’s not a factory where you can simply just work faster.

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Bolwerk January 4, 2012 - 4:17 pm

How do you “just work faster” in a factory? Your statements seriously imply randroid levels of ignorance about labor, which is odd coming from a union apologist.

There is always something that needs to get done, and clearly at the MTA there is always someone not doing anything but collecting a paycheck to wait to work – though I’m sorry to cite an authoritarian rag like The New York Post to point out who. Of course, you probably find playing being paid to play chess and watch TV on the public dime for a few hours a day perfectly acceptable.

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nycpat January 4, 2012 - 11:06 pm

So a 40 hour week is now a priveledge?
It needs to be said; globalisation is not a good deal for the average first world person.

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Bolwerk January 4, 2012 - 11:39 pm

Uh, when was it a right? The only (statutory) right is the right to overtime after 40 hours. And this has nothing to do with globalization. You can’t outsource bus driving, and nothing about outsourcing changes the fact that some bus driving positions are not worthy of anymore than part time or split shifts.

And if you’re really concerned about the workweek, how about maximizing the ability of the rest of us to get to work?

nycpat January 5, 2012 - 12:05 am

For about 70 odd years.

Bolwerk January 5, 2012 - 2:19 am

Not in the USA. The 40-hour work week was and is a ceiling, not a floor. Hell, if anything, the law was designed to encourage some part-time work. During the Depression, government wanted companies to hire more workers, so they created a penalty for employees with laborers working beyond 40 hours/week.

nycpat January 5, 2012 - 2:32 am

When you sign your life away to the TA it’s a floor. That’s the whole point of doing the civil service thing. It is contractually guaranteed. There are times when the crime rate is very low, say when it’s below 20 degrees. Should they lay off cops for cold spells?
Should teachers be paid for snow days?
Why should civil servants have any benefits at all? I’m sure they can find someone to do those jobs for less.

Bolwerk January 5, 2012 - 10:38 am

“Sign your life away to the TA”? Where do you come up with stuff like this? Nobody makes anybody work for the TA. It’s perfectly legitimate to have people work in eight-hour shifts, I never said it wasn’t. That doesn’t mean, when the nature of the work is realistically part time or split shift, you pay people a high wage for five hours to watch TV. That’s lunacy. For a job like bus driver, there are perfectly legitimate reasons to have at least some part-time drivers.

I know it’s a red herring, but okay, I’ll bite: if cops are intended to reduce crime, we should probably fire the whole lot of them. They aren’t doing jack in that regard.

nycpat January 5, 2012 - 2:10 pm

Working for the TA is at least a 25 year commitment.

Bolwerk January 5, 2012 - 2:16 pm

It most certainly is not. You’re free to quit at any time and take a more lucrative job.

It is reasonable for the MTA to consider the value of employee retention, of course. But that doesn’t make paying employees to sit around and watch TV for 5-hours a day excusable. Either split some of the shift or allow hiring of some part time workers. Those are the sensible options here based on reality.

Andrew Smith January 3, 2012 - 5:21 pm

As the News says to Samuelsen, “He should remember that the best interests of all concerned — taxpayers, riders and workers — are to keep the MTA as efficient as it can be.”

This isn’t even close to correct. Workers have no incentive whatever to make the MTA “as efficient as it can be.” Their incentive is to maximize their long-term earnings — a task that occasionally demands some concessions, but only the smallest possible strategic concessions that will make union seem “reasonable” enough to maintain some support from the public and politicians.

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Bolwerk January 4, 2012 - 4:10 pm

If the union had more sense, they would realize it would be in their interest to make the system efficient and future-focused. Soaking the public so much that capital improvements can’t even be afforded may be great in the short term, but in the long term it means the union’s increasing irrelevancy. The smart thing for them would be to try to encourage system expansion, which will at least guarantee that some of the jobs they do will stay relevant. There ain’t much need for a conductor, but it’s hard to see a future without a motorman – albeit, reduced in importance from operator to watchman as is the case in much of the modern transit world.

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Chris January 4, 2012 - 9:07 am

I tend to think the TWU will get the pay raises it wants, and its members won’t be asked to do any more work than they do now. The city has no willingness to bear a strike (or to break one) so why would they not? What would their employer’s financial distress have to do with the situation? Nobody involved in the process has any particular reason to care about the long-term financial health of the MTA.

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petey January 5, 2012 - 9:29 am

i hope to hear some of these same arguments, on other boards of course, when the police contract comes up. the public pays them too.
http://blogs.villagevoice.com/....._raise.php

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Bolwerk January 5, 2012 - 10:58 am

We probably should have fewer police officers, but the ones we keep probably should be paid a hell of a lot more. Right now the pay is so low and the work so stressful that the job is mostly attractive to ex-schoolyard bullies with IQs under 105 and no other especially good career prospects.

MTA operators/drivers, of course, don’t have the authority to bash your head with a nightstick and then use the blue wall to cover it up – so the most they need to be paid over a basically dignified salary should be whatever it costs to get a conscientious operator/driver.

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petey January 6, 2012 - 9:42 am

nice that there’s a poster here who has the right to pass judgement on what others “should” be paid, out of my pocket and all other taxpeyers’.

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Bolwerk January 6, 2012 - 2:12 pm

Huh? You think there shouldn’t be any rational basis for paying public employees? I don’t think many of my fellow taxpayers would agree with that!

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UESider January 9, 2012 - 7:24 pm

if we can fly planes over afghanistan with a pilot in Nevada, we should be able to outsource bus drivers – oh, what a dream that would be! They might have unusual accents, but they’ll be good and courteous!

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