With TWU workers set to enjoy a three-percent raise next year despite a $400 million MTA budget gap that led to this week’s service cuts, Albany is set to handcuff the MTA’s labor practices. A bill that passed the Senate yesterday and now awaits Assembly approval will bar the authority from closing station booths, fire agents and eliminating on-board personnel numbers. It would, says, the MTA rollback $80 million in cost savings, and the hypocrisy from Albany on this measure runs deep.
As the authority has tried to close a budget gap of approximately $400 million, it has tried to work with the TWU leadership to find savings. After all, a fiscally healthy MTA is in the best interests of its employees, and the upcoming mandatory raises are more than anyone should expect while working for a company that’s bleeding money. Last week, the authority floated a proposal that would have saved it money and the union jobs in exchange for a lesser benefits package for new workers. The union counterproposed another plan that would have allowed for $35 million in savings.
In each case, a provision calling for no layoffs proved to be a sticking. The MTA won’t grant it, and the TWU won’t accept benefits or salary reduction measures without one. Meanwhile, the union is working behind the scenes in Albany to get legislation passed that would hamstring the MTA’s labor relations for at least the next three years.
The bill the State Senate passed is S03772, and it is sponsored by Martin Dilan, chair of the transportation committee, with Ruben Diaz, Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Diane Savino as co-sponsors. Ostensibly, the bill is entitled the Transit Authority Passenger Security and Safety Act, but with the TWU openly touting its passage, it’s clear that this is a piece of special interest legislation wrapped in the en vogue language of safety and security.
With a justification in the enclosing memo citing “threat of terrorist attacks,” the act requires the MTA to keep at least one train operator and one conductor on board each train and cannot close token booths until at least July 1, 2013. During the next three years, a TA Transit Safety Advisory panel is supposed to “study, monitor and make recommendations with respect to the public safety from terrorist threats and criminal mischief” at stations. “I really don’t want to micromanage the MTA, but sometimes public safety trumps everything,” Senator Dilan said to the Daily News this morning.
Right now, the bill is awaiting action in the Assembly, but with numerous sponsors, it should see a floor vote at some point. As the legislation ripens, the MTA is less than pleased. In a response memo, the MTA slammed the bill and Dilan’s line of thinking. “Decisions about transit operations are best made as the result of thorough managerial analysis and review, not mandated by statute or advisory panels,” the authority said.
In a word, this bill is a travesty. The TWU can’t seem to come to an agreement with the MTA over the layoffs, and so it’s using its powerful political position to exploit Albany’s dislike of the MTA. If this bill passes, the state assembly will have, in the span of eight months, stolen $143 million from the MTA and forced it to implement unnecessary and costly business practices without funding them. Trains don’t need two operators, and under this regime, the MTA wouldn’t be able to implement cost-saving OPTO plans. Additionally, every single station booth doesn’t need to be staffed. But that doesn’t stop Albany from acting. Barring layoffs until 2013 would ensure that we the riding public have to pay more for less, and you can thank our elected representatives for that.