Home Service Cuts Walder vows layoffs in 60 days as unions protest

Walder vows layoffs in 60 days as unions protest

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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Scott E February 24, 2010 - 12:12 pm

“The Long Island Rail Road announced … 90 administrative positions will go, and 60 engineers and conductors will lose their jobs as well.”

Do the professional engineers who design signal systems, bridges, and security/fare collection systems (among other things) count as “engineers” or “administrative” in this context? (or are they safe from layoffs entirely). As it is written, the term “engineers” seems to refer to train operators, but that could just be a reporter’s wording.

Mike M February 24, 2010 - 12:24 pm

They refer to engineer as Locomoive Engineers because that’s what they are, not train operators.

Mike Smith February 24, 2010 - 12:25 pm

They are talking about locomotive engineers which are NOT train operators. They are federally liscensed engineers.

bob February 25, 2010 - 6:07 pm

Well it depends how picky you want to be over language. If an engine is defined as a device that converts chemical energy to kinetic energy then the person running a steam loco is an engineer, as is the person running a diesel. But purely electric vehicles don’t have engines, just motors. Hence the subway used the term “motorman”. Railroads stuck with the traditional term that the person running the source of locomotion is an engineer, regardless. It’s pretty much the same skill set. I’m not sure if the LIRR trains everyone on all thier rolling stock, but it would make sense to me.

Federal licensing is a rather recent occurance due to the accident in Maryland about 20 years ago. Prior to that there were few regulations about the actual operators. While they didn’t extend that to local transit systems, the random drug testing requirements do apply to local agencies. So it isn’t just a question of interstate commerce.

Scott E February 24, 2010 - 1:08 pm

Understood, and I didn’t intend to trivialize the locomotive engineers. Thanks for telling me what the actual, official title is. But my question remains: what happens to the “office-job” engineers?

nycpat February 24, 2010 - 4:16 pm

Good to know Train Operators are trivial.

bob February 24, 2010 - 5:11 pm

I don’t know about the LIRR per se, but often the type of postitions your talking about are classified as “professional/technical”. It implies they need special skills, or more than high school education.

Edward February 24, 2010 - 12:36 pm

I know Second Ave Sagas needs the advertising cash, but if have to look at that fat woman in her underwear one more time, i’m gonna hurl. Please, somebody pay to take this ad down!

Benjamin Kabak February 24, 2010 - 12:38 pm

Unless you want to pay my bills, no can do! The old CBS ad was an utter waste of space for way too long, and I need to make the money I can off of it. It’s random anyway. There’s a Sleepy’s ad there now.

AK February 24, 2010 - 3:17 pm

What’s interesting is that weight-loss companies would target this blog. I always assumed that the readership was generally well-educated, nerdy men (and I say that with the greatest pride), which is not the type of demographic you would think would look at weight loss ads. Apparently, I’m wrong 🙂

Benjamin Kabak February 24, 2010 - 3:18 pm

It’s all automated by the ad publishing company. If I still blocking too many URLs, I lose money. I’d rather do it based on keywords, but these teeth whitening and weight-loss sites are the ones that seem to be the heaviest advertisers.

AK February 24, 2010 - 4:29 pm

I’m just kiddin’ around Ben. I’m all for the advertising. Bring in as much bank as you can, I say!

drosejr February 24, 2010 - 1:30 pm

I believe that Samuelsen will put up a strong fight to prevent the layoffs, but eventually back down. Layoffs to him (those affected would no longer be union members, and thus can’t vote in the next election) are more preferable than giving back raises (which affects everyone).

As a side note, what did that no-layoffs clause get traded for? Who were the brilliant negotiators on both sides of that deal?

bob February 24, 2010 - 5:26 pm

Samuelson will complain as loud as he can (that’s his job) but as long as the TA is careful to follow the contract he can’t do much.

willbklyn February 24, 2010 - 2:30 pm

What’s missing in this discussion is the hole in the budget left by Access-A-Ride, the cost of which is spiralling out of control. The program will cost the MTA $450 million this year alone, which is as much as the MTA plans to spend on station renovations for the next five years. That is insane. Those blue and white vans have recently become ubiquitous, as seniors have figured out that the MTA is in the door to door limo service for anyone who can even feign a disability. The money spent on this program is a total misallocation of the scarce resources available for transit, and the MTA should use this crisis to reform it. And it is not enough to say that the program is required by the feds–the ADA does not require door to door service in every instance. And I am sure that lots of those people currently enjoying limo service to the Empire State Raceway to play the ponies would think twice about calling Access a Ride if it dropped them off at a bus stop.

Red February 24, 2010 - 2:37 pm

It isn’t completely accurate to say Access-a-Ride is a missing piece of the discussion. One of the ways the MTA closed the last budget gap was by choosing to stop door-to-door service in some cases and switching more trips from large vans to regular automobiles. Not clear if they are planning anything more on it, though.

Benjamin Kabak February 24, 2010 - 2:43 pm

They are. In December, they said they’d be reducing Access-A-Ride service to the bare minimum required by federal law. They haven’t announced either the details or the cost savings yet, but it should be substantial.

willbklyn February 24, 2010 - 3:06 pm

yes, I know, but certain politicians, hungry for old people votes, are already complaining about “balancing the budget on the backs of the disabled”. As though they aren’t already balancing it on the backs of everyone else. There should be a serious discussion about whether it is even appropriate for the MTA to be in the door to door transit business, for any class of passengers. If the feds think this is a good idea, let them pay for it. Meanwhile, has anyone else noticed the explosion in the use of Access-a-Ride? In my neck of brooklyn, it seems like half the traffic is access-a-ride vehicles, which, in addition to wrecking the MTA’s finances, pollutes the air, increases congestion and generally impairs the quality of life. I notice that this blog has only one post about paratransit, notwithstanding the fact that it threatens to blow up the MTA’s budget while altering the paradigm of public transit in NY. Again, there should be more attention to this. I know I may sound a little extreme on the subject, but I resent seeing those fleets of shiney new Access-A-Ride vehicles circling around Brooklyn with one or two passengers as I walk to my crumbling stop on the Q train.

Benjamin Kabak February 24, 2010 - 3:11 pm

The problem with reporting on Paratransit is that there just isn’t a lot of information out there and the Paratransit operators themselves aren’t willing to talk. The MTA’s costs aren’t as substantial as you think. They contract out a lot of their services. Meanwhile, the MTA says they’re going to cut $40 million from the AAR budget. These measures don’t require public hearings and include the elimination of door-to-door service, replacing it with feeder service to and from fixed-route, accessible transit and evaluating conditional eligibility based on weather or temperature on a case-by-case basis rather than a season basis.

At some point, though, the MTA can’t do much to reduce service here. They are under a federal mandate to provide AAR services, and this is yet another unfunded federal mandate at that. The MTA has its hands tied here.

willbklyn February 24, 2010 - 4:55 pm

The fact that the MTA contracts this service out does not make it any less expensive. And the MTA has been quite transparent about the cost–budget figures on its web site disclose that it anticipates spending $450 million on the service this year, rising to $600 million in the next several years unless it cuts back on service. That is an outrageous sum of money diverted from the subways and buses, and will result in a deterioration of service for the riding public. And it is a cop-out to say that the MTA’s hands are tied because of the federal mandate. If the federal mandate threatens to tank the MTA’s operating budget, the MTA, the TWU and our elected officials should be lobbying the feds to change the rules, before it’s too late.

Sharon Silver February 26, 2010 - 12:12 am

go to the mta website and file an email about the subject. We live in the same area. AAR vans pass by all day line either empty or with one person in it. Go by bally total fitness in sheapshead bay at arounf 2:30 and watch a man come out and get into the van 5 days a week. He works out for 2 hours each day no problem at all

Alon Levy February 24, 2010 - 4:59 pm

The real travesty is that some LIRR conductors, in fact most conductors, are still keeping their redundant jobs.

Nesta February 24, 2010 - 5:42 pm

Those jobs are only redundant if they find another way to collect fares and open and close the doors on the LIRR trains.

Russell Warshay February 24, 2010 - 5:48 pm

There are many other ways to collect fares that are far less expensive than LIRR conductors.

Opening and closing doors? I’m pretty sure that something has been invented called a “button.”

Nesta February 24, 2010 - 8:50 pm

Yes there is a button I see the conductors push it to open the doors. What do you suggest let the passengers control when they feel like opening the doors?

Josh K February 24, 2010 - 11:31 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m fairly certain that the Federal Railroad Administration requires EVERY train operating under it’s regulation, including freight trains, must have at least one conductor on board. This includes Amtrak, LIRR, MNRR, NJT, SEPTA, VRE, Metra, CSX, BNSF, UP. etc. The conductors have lots of other duties than just door control and fare collection. They’re responsible for safely loading and unloading wheelchair bound passengers onto the train, they are responsible for passenger safety in an emergency, something that the engineer can’t do while being stuck up in the locomotive (also the locomotive engineer is also unfortunately the person most likely to die in an accident, so some other personnel has to be on board to take charge in an emergency). Even NYCT still has conductors on all it’s trains and it ISN’T covered by the FRA.

Alon Levy February 25, 2010 - 4:00 am

NYCT has conductors because the TWU scuttled any attempt to introduce OPTO. The rest of the world has moved on and runs trains either automatically or with one operator per train. Somehow wheelchair-bound passengers manage to board all those subways just fine.

Most of the LIRR and MNRR trains are electric multiple units, without any special locomotive. The engineer is still in the lead car, but he’s no more exposed to accident than the engineer on a subway train. Besides which, in the rest of the developed world they have positive train control, which prevents those accidents. (The recent accident in Belgium happened because Belgium held off on installing PTC on its commuter lines in the 1990s, because there were several incompatible standard and the unified standard, ERTMS, was still in development.)

Alon Levy February 25, 2010 - 4:01 am

The Paris Métro actually did have passenger-operated buttons opening the doors, before it switched to automatic doors.

But at any rate, the engineer can easily press the button.

pete February 25, 2010 - 5:28 am

Yes there is a button I see the conductors push it to open the doors. What do you suggest let the passengers control when they feel like opening the doors?
LIRR M1 cars had the “passenger release” feature, so passengers could open the door. The conductor’s panel had a button to activate the feature. The point was not to open all the door if there was bad weather. People got confused between the passenger release button and the emergency brake supposedly, so the MTA in its 1970s thinking got rid of the passenger release buttons (there was one near the handrail at the door, and one on the outside of the car).

Alon Levy February 25, 2010 - 3:56 am

There’s this thing called “proof of payment” in countries where railroads are designed to transport people instead of provide jobs for conductors.

Anon February 24, 2010 - 6:34 pm Reply
Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines February 25, 2010 - 9:16 am

[…] MTA Board Mulls Busted Budget; More Layoffs to Come (NY1, SAS) […]

Hugh Taylor February 25, 2010 - 10:57 pm

There was a time when Access-a-Ride/paratransit was said to be controlled by organized crime. Regardless, there has got to be a money story here, as in follow the money to the MTA vendor companies and from there to campaign contributions. Do some electeds own some paratransit companies like they do Medicaid clinics? This explosion in paratransit costs is so outrageous that something more than pandering to old people must be fueling it.

Sharon Silver February 26, 2010 - 12:17 am

COme to a marty golden senior event where he is more or less pushing you into it. My father told him he can manage on the bus just fine.

willbklyn February 26, 2010 - 2:44 pm

indeed. who is going to follow the money? who is going to ask the hard questions, like how much is too much to spend on door to door service for the elderly? And what level of incapacity warrants access to paratransit? At present rates of growth, the MTA will be spending $1 billion on Access-a-Ride in no time, at a time when it doesn’t have a nickel to spare. And it’s apparent that the MTA will certify virtually anyone for the service. I’ve seen people bound up to these vans like schoolchildren meeting the bus. Clearly, they are using the service, at vast expense to the MTA and the taxpayer, out of convenience, not necessity.

RAY September 8, 2010 - 6:34 pm


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