Home Transit LaborTWU A costly and unnecessary no-layoffs bill moves forward

A costly and unnecessary no-layoffs bill moves forward

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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John Paul N. June 30, 2010 - 1:47 pm

Senator Dilan represents my community and to call this a disappointment is an understatement. The public safety that the station agents provide is not public safety at all, case in point, the 21st Street-Van Alst rape incident. Why not just add more police funding and call it a day? This just proves that Senator Dilan desires a transit system with too many workers. Now there just isn’t a candidate who would run against him, let alone win, in my district. (Diana Reyna, are you interested?) And even if a challenger wins, I bet Dilan’s transportation chairman replacement will just have the same views as he does.

New York is, unfortunately, a popular target of terrorist attacks. The question legislators and politicians need to ask themselves is who would be the most effective in responding to a terrorist action: a civilian transit employee or a public safety officer? Is there more than one answer to this question?

If the TWU and ATU can prove that it needs every single one of its members in a lean transit system I will support them. But the MTA’s white collar workforce also has to be streamlined. Everybody concedes, everybody wins because both sides gain the favor of the public.

Scott E June 30, 2010 - 2:18 pm

Yesterday, Governor Paterson emphatically stated that the state budget was fixed, and that he would veto any bill that came across his desk looking to re-allocate money. While this isn’t a line directly in the state budget, let’s hope he’d scrutinize this as well and veto it.

Al D June 30, 2010 - 2:22 pm

Sounds like this can also be called a ‘jobs bill’ except that the jobs being ‘created’ or in this instance ‘saved’ and the rationale behind it are highly flawed. I was at 59 St-5 Ave station this morning, and the token booth clerk was sitting by his lonesome levels above the platform level with no platform visibility whatsoever. While I’m sure that this booth will remain open, the point is that his being there, in the eye of any rational person, would do nothing to dissuade a terrorist. So let’s see, would a terrorist let a token booth clerk intimidate him/her or prevent him/her from carrying out a plot? I think not! The terrorist who drove to Times Square didn’t seem to care about lots of cops and security cameras, but a token booth clerk. Well, with their general attitude, they’d only agitate the terrorist more!

Kid Twist June 30, 2010 - 3:56 pm

This is not a jobs bill. It’s about politicians who in the pocket of public-sector unions.

John June 30, 2010 - 2:25 pm

While I do feel sorry for the workers who would be laid off because of the budget crisis (Don’t forget that one of the perks was job security), overall, I think that the no-layoffs clause would hurt the transit system’s riders.
I’m sure a lot of the savings from the service reductions would come from the fact that they don’t have to pay employees to drive the extra buses and trains, and, while I’m sure some of the savings would come from attrition, there would also have to be some layoffs.
Since one of the perks was job security, the MTA should at least pay them a partial salary until they can find a reasonably paying job.
The good thing for the MTA is that there is nothing in the bill stating that they have to hire new employees to replace the ones that retire, so in a few years, there will be more cost savings. For now, though, be prepared to pay more in fares than previously expected.

Will June 30, 2010 - 3:01 pm

Thanks for bringing this to light Ben. In the meantime, I will continue to dream of a privatized transit authority. I would gladly pay $5 for a single ride or $150+ for a monthly pass if it meant a more efficient subway system that was in a state of good repair and not crippled by the greed of its union workers.

oscar July 1, 2010 - 9:50 am

I agree 100%

Alon Levy July 1, 2010 - 11:29 am

The privatized transit authorities of the world don’t charge more than New York City Transit. They just get things done with fewer workers.

Nathanael July 2, 2010 - 2:53 pm

There are essentially no *fully* privatized transit agencies left in the world. Are you referring to “franchised” transit agencies, where the public authority owns the tracks and stations and contracts with a private company to operate them?

Sharon June 30, 2010 - 3:13 pm

The current layoffs of station agents would not have been needed if the politicians would not have meddled with the plan to close subway booth back in 2003 I believe(have the book in front of me from the hearing). Those who were let go would never have been hired in the first place. Lets hope walder is smart and proposes a comprehensive security plan that includes closing all booths and replacing them with security code enforcers. We all agree that we need someone at most stations(not all), why not give that person some real responsibility to providing public safety and reduce fare beating. this person could also work with select bus to enforce the fare. I already called pattersons office to express my views.

kim July 2, 2010 - 8:45 am

Sharon I am one of the 250 station agents who was laid off I follow the blogs on the websites and newspapers. I’ve noticed you are on every website and blog always speaking negative so I felt the need to address you. I’m a 31 year old woman who is very hard working and dedicated to any job I’ve ever worked including the MTA. I’ve always made it a priority to never fall into the stereo type that people have formed of station agents such as, they are nasty, not helpful, etc. I’m always pleasant, I go the extra mile to make sure passengers are satisfied and provided with excellent customer service. I did absolutely nothing to have been punished and have my job taken away I’ve worked hard to provide for my family I lived from paycheck to paycheck just like everyone else. When you carry on about how they should get rid of station agents have you ever stopped to think there are hard working station agents like myself who’s life has been turned upside down due to the MTA’s mismanagement of money, theft, and lies. I do agree there are some station agents who are very unpleasant and I look down on that because we are all judged and labeled as “nasty”. Alot of people are so quick to judge MTA employees but there are so many things we go through with the job poor health conditions, rats, having to wait years to even get a descent schedule or days off safety issues, irrate customers and the list goes on but I dealt with it and took everything in stride, I sympathize with the riding public about service cuts because it affects me just as well I rely on public transportation just like everyone else. You are entitled to your opinion but I do take offense everytime I read your comments. I would never wish job loss on anyone because it hurts when you have worked hard and struggled only to lose everything in the end

Nathanael July 2, 2010 - 2:55 pm

While I am sure you are a very dedicated and hardworking person, the question is whether station agents are actually useful at *all* in many stations. Particularly those where the (former) ticket booths are both far away from the platforms and not in useful locations for asking directions.

I would hope that if station agents are still needed at some large key stations, they would retain you rather than relying strictly on seniority.

But somehow I suspect the TWU won’t allow that.

J B July 3, 2010 - 1:32 am

I’m sorry to hear about your predicament. This has nothing to do with how hard you work, so please don’t take it personally. Some jobs simply become obsolete regardless of the abilities and dedication of those doing them. In a just society people who run into this situation would recieve help, regardless of whether or not they are government employees, but this shouldn’t be the responsibility of the agency running transportation. If the TWU really wanted to help its workers and working people as a whole they would focus on promoting social welfare and a properly functioning transit authority rather than just squeezing the MTA for every cent possible.

John Paul N. July 4, 2010 - 11:34 pm

If you put your heart and soul into your work and are praised for it, there’s no reason why you do not deserve to be rewarded. That said, however, if the claim is that station agents provide a public service by contributing to the security of the transit system (as put forth by your union), people have every right to agree or disagree with that claim. I happen to be of the opinion that that claim is wrong unless agents are somehow retrained to allow confrontations with fare-beating passengers in order to detain or fine them, as one of many options in which agents can serve a greater purpose in accord with their pay (think of transit systems outside NYC).

There is a needed role for good passenger support and help in the subway system, especially in high-traffic areas. Behind a token booth is not necessarily the best place. I feel for you also because you may not have the seniority that allows you to work at a higher position. You sound like a person I would want working for the MTA, albeit not necessarily as a station agent. It is also in the best interest for the unions to work with the MTA for a healthy system, and vice versa.

And Kim, if you are reading this, you should be aware that Sharon did respond to your post below.

nycpat June 30, 2010 - 6:42 pm

Raise the fares already!

rhywun June 30, 2010 - 6:54 pm

The other day I speculated, tongue-in-cheek, that the only way the TWU would be happy is with a “no layoffs” clause in their contract. This was meant as a joke. Once again, they’ve managed to prove they have even less scruples that I would have thought. My question is, how much longer will the voters put up with it??

Sharon July 1, 2010 - 12:10 am

I am ok with a no layoff clause in exchange for expanded OPTO and some other cost savings that could be rolled out over time. The MTA has a fairly large turnover in the work force. There are ways to trim workers.

For instance they could use a few extra driver to drive the subway shuttle buses instead of paying time and a half overtime plus driving time from your local depot sometimes an hour drive away.

Current conductors would need to go to school car to learn how to drive trains. Station agents need training to work as inspectors on select bus service etc.

The union is unreasonable in there demands because they know they have Albany in there pocketbooks and have and have binding arbitration . No need to play ball

The fare remains the same, at least for 2010 :: Second Ave. Sagas July 1, 2010 - 12:21 am

[…] The MTA has to go through the charade of public hearings to cut station agents. Now, Albany might outlaw OPTO and station agent reductions until 2013 all without providing much-needed funds for these […]

Sharon July 1, 2010 - 11:42 am

welcome to paid off NYS where the average person pays no attention and the average city resident reads on a 4th grade level due to the many of new immigrants who are smart but not as adept at the language as many on this board

Peter July 1, 2010 - 11:18 pm

Wow, I wasn’t aware of this. If you ever want to wonder what the end-state of a government that unions like the TWU and SEIU have wrapped around their finger, look no further than Greece.


Alon Levy July 2, 2010 - 9:05 am

The issue with Greece isn’t unionism. It’s that after democracy replaced fascism, the political culture was very risk-averse, and tried to placate everyone, for fear of riots. This meant every interest group got the spending it wanted, and the government never really bothered to raise taxes or enforce tax collection well.

Union-run governments aren’t like that at all. In Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, the unions act as one interest group, which means the government has an easier time prioritizing spending. US unions generally compete rather than act together, but SEIU is a major exception, and is committed to the entire working class as well as to keeping its industries profitable.

Nathanael July 2, 2010 - 2:57 pm

Poorly thought-out union competition can be a particular problem; the LIRR’s featherbedding comes from union competition, where each union is fighting over “turf” with other unions.

Sharon July 3, 2010 - 12:26 am

Kim we need more people working at the mta. Blame your union for the predicament you are in. The facts are simple. Station agents current job functions have not been needed for ten years. Your union pressured local politicians to keep booths open that should have been closed many years ago costing riders over a hundred million. The twu could have agreed to give back the cost of living wage(cost of living in NYC actually went down this year) the paid off arbitrator awarded and agreed to need changes and saved your Job. YOUR UNION Threw you under the bus.

Anthony July 5, 2010 - 8:54 am

I was also one of the 250 staion agents laid off last month. I’m amazed at the level of gullibility of people. I do agree to some respect that the union is just as much to blame as the MTA however I’d just like to open peoples’ eyes a bit. The MTA was granted $1.5 billion dollars approx. Last year by the President with the ability to use 10% that to avert fare hikes,lay offs, and service cuts all in one. The fares were still raised last year on top of the stimulus package granted by the government. Where’s the money? At the start of 2010 the deficit went from $300 million to the supposed $800 million with no mention to the ties at wall street which it repaid guess how much? $800 million dollars in bonds which it paid the highest price for and the bill was due. The riding public has been brainwashed to accept anything the MTA says as truth and vilified it’s own employees. Of the hundreds of lawyers and accountants that make hundreds of thousands of dollars the MTA has no one saw this coming? I understand the financial crisis but it should also be proven in black and white. Also to those who believe the station agent position is “white collar” it’s actually far from and you wouldn’t last 10 minutes. Between the verbal abuse, Backwords workrules , steel dust, health issues, average life span and the actual work conditions it’s pretty low on the totem pole which is why we were targeted first for layoffs. A no layoff clause is necessary due to the underhanded tactics of the MTA. Layoffs would not be necessary because of attrition.

Sharon July 7, 2010 - 3:08 pm

“The MTA was granted $1.5 billion dollars approx. Last year by the President with the ability to use 10% that to avert fare hikes,lay offs, and service cuts all in one.”
It would be foolish to spend infrastructure money on salaries for one year. Where is the money coming from next year. the situation will not get any better. Although the MTA management pre Walder is terrible and has many back office areas to cut such as the $10 million from multiple communications offices, the fact are simple we can not afford to pay TOP PAY to work roles that are no longer needed. Station agents and conductors under there current job description are not needed no matter how much money they mta has. I would have liked to see the reduction through attrition but it is your union that caused the layoffs. They are MILITANT and resist any common sense changes. These station agent and conductor positions should have been eliminated back in 2003. Many of the booth that were to close such as the 16th street entrance at Union Square sits near a police station as does the Booth at Stillwell Ave station in Coney Island.

The fares were still raised last year on top of the stimulus package granted by the government. Where’s the money? At the start of 2010 the deficit went from $300 million to the supposed $800 million with no mention to the ties at wall street which it repaid guess how muc”

The money went to pay the raises of TWU employees in a time when inflation is flat . The deficit is increasing due for a number of reasons.
1) Salaries and HEALTH CARE COSTS have gone up
2) Ridership is down
3) Mta taxes and Crazy toll charges are down due to the economy
4) Albany stole $143 million in tax dolars

Even with all the layoffs the MTA will pay MORE in salaries to TWU employees than last year.

Look there are many things that the union has resisted over the past 10 years that could save hundreds of million of dollars that would not affect the lively hood of current workers. Read past issues online of the TWU express newsletter on how they resisted broad banding job functions etc. Closing un needed part time booths alone would have saved $100 million plus dollars since 2003.

Big Ant August 23, 2010 - 7:04 am

To station agents and every other person crying about safety concerns.
Last year, a 21 year old art student was raped on the G platform at 21st Street in Hunters Point. Then it turned out that the token booth clerk did see the victim and rapist, but he stayed in his booth and pressed the panic button – as per NYC Transit procedures. Now, the victim, now 23 years old, is suing NYC Transit for negligence claiming that it “failed to meet the standard of care owed . . . to their passengers.” “Nicole” spoke to Post and recounted what happened:

The NYU grad was attacked during the early hours of June 7, 2005, as she rode a Queens-bound G train. The pervert first began to stroke her feet. Disgusted, Nicole got up and moved – only to be pursued by the creep.

She got off the train at the next stop, 21st Street in Long Island City, not realizing he had followed her until she felt his tongue on her foot.

“It freaked me out so much that I started running up the stairs,” she said.

The creep caught up with her and began pulling her down the stairs as a screaming Nicole made eye contact with booth clerk John Koort.

“I had this thought that, ‘Finally, I am safe, there is another person in here, I am not alone, I can get out of it,’ ” she recalled.

Instead, she was dragged down the steps and sexually assaulted on the platform before the pervert forced her into a filthy toolshed and fled.

She later learned that train conductor Harmodio Cruz had witnessed the crime as he rode by and pressed his own panic button but, he said, couldn’t stop in time to help her.

Nicole added, “Every time I think about the token-booth guy … it just makes my blood boil. I really feel like he is not someone I can forgive.” She does, however, forgive her attacker (believing that he is “sick”), who is still at large.

This crime is definitely horrible, but one thing we remember from last year’s coverage is that the NYC Transit said the token booth clerk needs to stay in the booth, because he wouldn’t know if he was being set up. Right – but what about the token booth clerks that now work outside of the booths? Would they just run, then? The attack occured around 3AM, which probably means there weren’t any other people around, but had there been, we’re sure some other passengers would have tried to help the victim.

Yeah, i see why they are needed.

Revisiting the reaction to the glass doors :: Second Ave. Sagas February 4, 2011 - 1:42 am

[…] from the MTA before saying that she never bothered to read the bill. She has also supported an unnecessary and costly no-layoffs bill. In other words, if the easy political points are there for the grabbing, she’s happy to take […]


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