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LIRR men sleeping on the job and getting paid

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By JAMES FANELLI for the ny post



They get cash for catching Zzzz's!


An arcane union rule allowed 34 Long Island Rail Road grease monkeys at a Queens maintenance shop to earn a total of $2.5 million in overtime last year, and some of that staggering sum was paid just for heading home and going to bed, The Post has learned.


The outrageous OT has led to an investigation by MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger's office, which is reviewing the LIRR's operating practices regarding work rules and pensions.


The earnings bonanza is the result of a longstanding labor agreement known as Rule 24, which applies only to LIRR car repairmen at the Richmond Hill, Queens, facility.


The golden rule has turned the site into an OT gold mine and earned it the nickname "Rich Man's Hill" among the rank and file.


Under the rule, the railroad is required to fill vacant slots on all work shifts -- regardless of whether the manpower is needed -- allowing senior repairmen to pick up enormous amounts of extra hours.


If a repairman is out sick or goes on vacation, for example, the rule requires the shift's empty slot to be filled by another mechanic, even if he's not needed or on OT.


There were hundreds of instances last year when mechanics worked 24 to 32 hours straight, racking up time-and-a-half and double-time pay. The system then dictates that these OT kings be sent home to collect an additional eight hours of pay for no work.


Many accrue 40 consecutive hours of pay in a single stretch, ringing up a full week's wages in less than a day and half.


And the gravy train doesn't stop there. Another mechanic can then pick up the vacant slot left by the sent-home worker and receive time-and-a-half pay.


Rule 24 has ratcheted up some mechanics' income by more than three times their base salary.


As The Post reported last week, the biggest earner was Ronald Dunne, who took home $283,373 -- nearly $220,000 in OT -- making him the fifth-highest-paid MTA employee. Only former MTA chief Eliot Sander and the presidents of the LIRR, New York City Transit and the Bridges and Tunnels Division made more.


The huge paydays come at a time when the MTA, which oversees the LIRR along with NYC buses and subways and the Metro-North commuter railroad, approved a 10 percent across-the-board fare hike and got a $2.3 billion taxpayer bailout to plug a gaping hole in its 2010 budget.


Rule 24 dates back to 1967 and was initially an incentive to fill shifts at a then-unpopular shop. But as paydays ballooned under the rule, the LIRR has unsuccessfully tried to have it scratched during each round of contract talks. It has also twice been challenged before a state arbitrator but been upheld.


LIRR spokesman Joseph Calderone said recent steps had been taken to curb the excessive overtime at the Queens facility.


The Inspector General's Office said it would issue a report, including findings and recommendations on LIRR overtime and pension in the near future.

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Working for the railroad is/was a good job, and now that white collar America has gotten itself in boiling water with this Wall Street fiasco, they've decided to go after those who earn their money.

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RR work is NOT a ****ing desk job these people have real and valuable skills and risk injury & death, and inhalation and exposure to nasty stuff just to keep our trains moving. Maybe SOME reform is needed, but to short staff LIRR or any RR would be a huge mistake, especially if there's an incident.


- A

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Working for the railroad is/was a good job, and now that white collar America has gotten itself in boiling water with this Wall Street fiasco, they've decided to go after those who earn their money.


I agree, OT pay for LIRR machinists has been going on for years.

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Funny how the OT is now a problem, but keeping employee staffing levels at lower than allocated quotas to save money isn't brought up. Management could have promoted/hired more mechanics anytime they wanted. From what I know at NYCTA, we always have less employees than the agency budget allows because it's cheaper to pay OT than bennies & other legacy costs of additional personnel.. I wish they would apply the same standards for the white collar (MTA) jobs..

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