After years of strained labor relations, the MTA and the TWU Local 100, the labor union for all the city’s transit workers, are finally working to improve their labor relations. With another round of contract talks due later this year, a panel led by former MTA Chair Richard Ravitch and Hezekiah Brown issued a report late last week that pinpointed 61 ways the MTA and the TWU can work to improve their relationship.
The report, available here as a PDF, is a 36-page document that urges the MTA to extend a lot of much-needed courtesies to the transit workers. Through a series of interviews with employees and union representatives as well as field visits, best-practice research and data analysis, the Blue Ribbon panel grouped its recommendations into five categories.
Right now, according to the panel, the seven-headed beast that is the MTA makes it hard to forge one organizational culture. The panel feels that this is one of the top issues facing the MTA as they relate to the TWU members among their ranks. The report says:
There is a real need to also have a cohesive MTA culture that brings all of these entities together under a common set of values and a common vision. An organizational culture creates opportunities to maximize resources across the agencies, especially in times of emergencies; allows for greater efficiencies through collaborative planning; and provides the workforce with more opportunities for career development and mobility. In addition, the organization needs to keep pace with two evolving factors: the changing demographics of the workforce and the increased use of new technologies to gain efficiencies.
In this section, as in most of the report, the recommendations are tailored toward improving managerial workflow and workplace happiness. Reading through the 16 recommendations, which include items such as identifying facilities that need renovations or repairs, I’m struck by how much of this most of us take for granted at our workplaces.
This area, according to the report, ties in with many of the topics I discuss here on Second Ave. Sagas. With a lot of capital construction projects set for completion in the mid-2010s and other technology upgrades on the way, the report urges the MTA to project and prepare for the added staff that the agency will have to bring on and train before the LIRR East Side Access project and Second Ave. Subway lines are operational. The report also urges the MTA to conduct more top-down and bottom-up reviews of its employees.
When reports start dropping puns in parenthesis, you know you’re in trouble. The third section concerns retention and advancement opportunities. In a nutshell, the panel wants the MTA to ” identify and develop candidates for senior-level positions to ensure the continuity of managerial expertise and leadership skills in the organization. This is a growing concern at the MTAin light of the increasing number of baby boomers eligible to retire within the next three to five years.” Nearly 50 percent of NYCT employees are eligible to retire within the next three years, and these are jobs that cannot be outsourced to India or Vietnam when the union workers leave the positions.
The recommendations under this heading focus around work/life issues that were front and center during the 2005 strike. How can the MTA balance granting the right number of days off with the demands of a 24/7/365 system as well as systematic abuse of the paid time off programs?
This section can be summed up in two sentences from the report: “The new leadership at the MTA has demonstrated a willingness and commitment to improve the current state of labor-management relations by creating an environment that has partnership, accountability, and mutual respect as its cornerstones. To accomplish this requires a similar commitment from labor.” Don’t worry; the actual text is that exciting.
Now, for a seemingly mundane report that reads fairly dryly, the fact that it even exists is a giant step in the right direction. As Roger Toussaint, president of TWU Local 100 said at a press conference last week, the day was a “milestone.”
“I think we will resolve the next round of negotiations without a crisis,” Toussaint said, according to Pete Donohue of the Daily News. And that is music to ears of New Yorkers.