Looks like MTA Chairman Pat Foye was right: Workers at his agency take a heckuva lot of days off.
Data obtained by The Post show the average New York City Transit employee missed a whopping 54 days of work last year, a full seven weeks and five days, transit reporter David Meyer reported Tuesday.
That includes 18 vacation days, eight holidays, nine sick days and four training days, all of which are paid — plus, six comp days, five unpaid sick days and four days for jury duty, suspensions and military leave. That’s one sweet deal.
As for workers throughout the rest of the agency, Foye has estimated they may clock closer to 12 weeks off the job every year. Is he kidding?
Here’s the problem: All that time off means fewer employees available to work — and that forces the MTA to pay obscene overtime costs to make up for the absences.
“The low average work-year helps explain the overtime surge,” says E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy.
Turns out, paying high OT rates is cheaper than hiring enough staff to fill in for missing workers. That’s because of all the perks employees get, not to mention the difficulty in letting workers go if they’re no longer needed.
No wonder MTA overtime has skyrocketed 36 percent since 2016, topping $1 billion last year alone. This year, The Post has shined a light on the mind-blowing OT some individual workers, particularly those at the LIRR, have received.
The good news: Workers’ time off is spelled out in the Transport Workers Union contract, and since it expired in May, the new one can fix the problems.
Workers’ exorbitant absences and the agency’s sky-high overtime costs “underscore the need for MTA management to demand significant work rule changes,” says McMahon.
Better news: Foye & Co. seem to understand the need for changes. Reports have suggested, for example, that the agency is looking to tweak LIRR contracts to end double-time pay for certain overtime assignments.
It’s also seeking more leeway to scrutinize workers who call out sick and to contract out work when necessary.
One catch: Management will need Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s firm support, as the union is already hinting at a strike over reforms. Riders and taxpayers will soon find out if the gov’s on their side — or the union’s.
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