Home Asides On snowy days, MTA sees too many sick days

On snowy days, MTA sees too many sick days

by Benjamin Kabak

Staten Island bus drivers have a snow day problem, according to New York City Transit. Based upon data from a few snowy days this February, more divers are calling in sick on snowy days, the Daily News reports today. According to Transit, more drivers than usual called in sick on February 9, the day of a major storm in the New York City area, and by the time the snow had settled, 88 drivers out of Castleton – or 21 percent of that depot’s drivers – had filed for a sick day, and 15 percent of drivers from Staten Island’s Yukon depot had done the same.

To fill these service gaps, the MTA had to turn to workers who collect overtime, and the cash-strapped authority isn’t too pleased with the potential sick-day abuse. “Clearly there are cases where people are taking advantage of sick-day policies, and when and where we are able, we’re going to go after those cases in a very serious way,” Jeremy Soffin, MTA spokesman, said to Pete Donohue.

Vinnie Serapiglia, a vice president at Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 726, defended drivers who life outside of the city and could have faced “tough commutes” back to their suburban houses in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. “I don’t understand the thinking of the transit authority. The guys come here and put their all into the job,” he said, “and it seems like they are constantly under attack by management.”

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Jonathan April 8, 2010 - 4:40 pm

Utility companies rent hotel rooms out of the area for their crews in advance of a big hurricane so that they are available to work after the storm. Why can’t MTA just rent a hotel room for the workers the night after a snowstorm?

SEAN April 8, 2010 - 4:48 pm

Can the MTA aford the rooms? LOL

John April 8, 2010 - 5:01 pm

I’m confused why any company (including the MTA) still has sick days separated from paid time off. It’s just so ripe for abuse, and is just another “pool” to keep track of. Just give people so much paid time off per year. Doesn’t matter if they use it when they’re sick, when their kids are sick, or if they go on an actual vacation, or whatever else they feel like doing. So much simpler, and no need for people to lie and call in “sick” when they’re really not.

Andrew April 8, 2010 - 9:11 pm

A transit agency isn’t going to willingly permit its operating employees to take a vacation on an hour’s notice. Vacation time is only distributed to the extent that enough people are left to run the service.

John April 9, 2010 - 10:07 am

But how would it be different than granting sick days at a moment’s notice? Functionally it would work the same – you call in “sick” – but instead of using up a sick day, you’re taking away from your vacation time. It would just be somewhat of a deterrent to prevent people from calling in fake sick.

nycpat April 9, 2010 - 12:54 pm

In RTO we have to ask for a day off 20 days in advance. Call in sick during a snow emergency you must have a note from a doctor or face discipline. Unmentioned in this article, but I recall reading elsewhere[ The Chief?], is that busdrivers in SI have a high number of Family and Medical Leave Act cases. Meaning they just call up and say they’re not coming in and the MTA can’t discipline them.

Rhywun April 8, 2010 - 10:28 pm

My company just switched to such a system. “Sick days” are now officially not differentiated from “vacation days” or “personal days”. I haven’t considered the “no need for people to lie and call in ‘sick’ when they’re really not” angle, though. That’s interesting. I’m not sure if my company had that in mind when implementing this. I suppose I could read the company manual and see if they still reserve the right to demand a doctor’s note after a “sick that” – that should settle the matter.

Jason A April 8, 2010 - 6:51 pm

Suburban Pennsylvania? Really?

Cry me a river…

Your “right” to live in a McMansion should not preclude your responsibility to make it to work.

Tacony Palmyra April 9, 2010 - 10:37 am

My friend just got Verizon FiOS cable and the installer who came over to her small apartment in East Harlem to set it up said he lives in a new 5-bedroom house on an acre lot in the Poconos with his wife and 4 kids. The installer’s wife doesn’t work and their kids go to good public schools. On a cable installer’s salary.

This is more common than you think.

Niccolo Machiavelli April 8, 2010 - 7:56 pm

“I’m confused why any company (including the MTA) still has sick days separated from paid time off. It’s just so ripe for abuse”

Actually John, one reason is so that the workers CAN be disciplined for using too much of it or using it at the wrong time. It is considered differently for discipline purposes than personal days or vacation days. My assumption is that some discipline will ensue from this snow storm depending on the records and progressive discipline status of the individuals. Most companies who provide transportation services in both the public and private sector, freight and passenger distinguish between classes of time paid not worked.

John April 9, 2010 - 10:15 am

You could still discipline people for taking too much “short notice” or “unplanned” time off. But keeping sick time in a separate pool from your “real” vacation just encourages people to stay home on those borderline days, because it doesn’t hurt them at all. The smart people will figure out what the right amount of sick time to use in a year is, and just always stay under that.

Anon April 8, 2010 - 9:20 pm

Slow news day huh?

Edward April 8, 2010 - 10:49 pm

Considering that the MTA runs shoddy service on Staten Island on a clear, sunny day in April, it’s no surprise that drivers would call out sick on a horrible snowy day like this past February. I waited 45 minutes for an S40 bus to the ferry terminal on a gorgeous day this week, and two scheduled buses never showed. Waited with a bunch of tourists near Snug Harbor Cultural Center, who couldn’t believe that a bus would take that long to arrive during a weekday. When the bus came, it was packed (of course) and we got to the ferry terminal just in time to miss the boat and wait another half-hour for the next.

This kind of crap service is par for the course out here, and is very frustrating. Add to this the fact that about two dozen “not in service” buses whizzed by us while we waited. Any one of these buses could have stopped to pick up passengers, but that would be too easy. The MTA is in service to serve the MTA and its workers, not passengers.


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