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MTA's Overtime costs blamed on Inept Management

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https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-overtime-costs-1.35116875

 

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MTA's soaring overtime costs blamed on outdated policies, timekeeping failures

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A payroll review issued Thursday says overtime is doled out lavishly to the MTA's 74,000-person workforce, due in part to varying timekeeping systems and work rules. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Drew Angerer

By Vincent Baronevin.barone@amny.com  @vinbaroneUpdated August 15, 2019 5:09 PM

 

The MTA's inability to properly manage payroll and overtime costs contributes to soaring expenses at the cash-strapped agency, according to a new report.

Wildly outdated and varying timekeeping systems, work rules and internal policies mean the MTA has no real-time tracking of the vast majority of its 74,000-person workforce, where overtime is doled out lavishly, creating excessive payroll costs and the potential for overtime abuse, according to an MTA-commissioned payroll review from the law firm Morrison & Foerster.

Former federal prosecutor Carrie Cohen, a co-author of the report, warns that the MTA’s systemic flaws in tracking worker pay — which accounts for 32% of MTA spending — could jeopardize the success of the authority’s reorganization plan as well as any other money-saving measures. The MTA is currently considering thousands of layoffs and other measures to close a roughly $1 billion budget gap in 2022 that threatens service cuts and more intense fare increases.

“The full benefit of these proposals may not be realized, however, unless the MTA also addresses the pervasive, long-standing timekeeping inefficiencies that have been flagged for years as major cost drivers,” reads the report, published Thursday.

The review comes at a charged time at the MTA, as the authority negotiates several expired union contracts and as its board has debated allegations of payroll fraud and abuse among MTA workers. The review was inspired by a recent report from Empire Center detailing that a few employees had raked in several times their salaries in overtime.

While the report does not draw conclusions on fraud — it focuses on policies and procedures — it is particularly harsh on the MTA for taking little action in response to more than a decade and a half of critical reports warning of timekeeping failures.

“Despite years of similar warnings, documented findings, and reports of excessive and escalating overtime, management and leadership of the [MTA] have failed to address excessive overtime and have not been held accountable for this failure and the resulting escalating overtime costs,” the report continues.

Overtime accounts for about 16% of the MTA’s roughly $5.4 billion payroll budget and has increased significantly across every agency last year except for Bridges & Tunnels, the MTA’s smallest department and the only one to use a modern timekeeping system.

Overtime pay accounted for a quarter of all payroll expenses at the Long Island Rail Road last year. At Transit, the largest agency overseeing the subways and most city buses, overtime accounted for 18% of payroll.

The report has offered 15 recommendations. It suggests, in part, for the MTA to more aggressively switch to biometric timekeeping systems; standardize timekeeping across the authority; reconsider its hiring freeze; and renegotiate “outdated” work rules that generate overtime through collective bargaining.

Cohen highlighted specific rules at agencies that “can drive extra pay and high overtime.” On the subways, for example, a “deadheading” work rule means when an employee begins work at one location and ends at another, the employee is paid to return to their home location and can be paid overtime if that extends past the worker’s shift.

On the LIRR, in another example, a “co-mingling” work rule means engineers receive double pay if they operate both a diesel and electric engine during one work assignment — a rule that “may have made sense a century ago” but not in 2019 when operating both engines is essentially the same, according to the report.

MTA Transit’s efforts to minimize subway disruptions with weekend work also contribute to exorbitant overtime as does a combination of a lack of available workers and high rate of absences. Across city buses, operators report on average for 197 out of 260 annual workdays, according to the report.

The MTA welcomed Cohen’s findings, which are expected to be a topic of discussion at a board meeting scheduled for Friday afternoon.

“This report makes important and well thought out recommendations that will help us address the significant problem of excessive overtime, which is particularly important in light of our severe financial condition,” MTA spokesman Max Young said in a statement. “We are already implementing substantial parts of these recommendations, including the installation of biometric timekeeping devices; standardizing our time and attendance system agencywide; and instituting new practices for controlling overtime.”

 

 

Here is the report from Morrison & Foerster:

https://new.mta.info/sites/default/files/2019-08/2019-08-15 Morrison %26 Foerster Report.pdf

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The massive B/O sickness piece is interesting. The B/Os on here have posted about how strict the MTA is about sick days, and will send supervisors to your home to make sure you are actually home sick. 

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That is the case for the Subways and you're required to have medical evaluations to return to a safety sensitive position on the LIRR as well. There is also 'pattern analysis' so 'mental health days' come back to bite you.

BTW the 'made sense a century ago' in regards to the comingling is pretty dishonest since it was supposed to have been given in exchange for requiring everyone to qualify on all equipment,reducing the size of the roster and not getting a pay raise (and that wasn't a century ago). Also, I don't think anyone who operates an MP15, and MU and a DE/DM will tell you it's basically the same thing. 

Would the T/Os on here say that running a Work engine and an R160 are the same 🤔

Oh...also the leading cause for B/O absenteeism are Assaults by the Public and vehicular accidents. So I think I figured out where the problem is.

Edited by Jsunflyguy

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21 hours ago, QM1to6Ave said:

The massive B/O sickness piece is interesting. The B/Os on here have posted about how strict the MTA is about sick days, and will send supervisors to your home to make sure you are actually home sick. 

Hope they’re reporting that, since it’s not only a 4th Amendment violation, it’s a HIPAA violation.

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17 minutes ago, Deucey said:

Hope they’re reporting that, since it’s not only a 4th Amendment violation, it’s a HIPAA violation.

Is MTA a civilian employer or law enforcment? Does an Inspector General have subpeona/discovery/law enforcement power? HIPPA is nearly wothless as everyone waves all their rights when they sign up for insurance. All HIPPA does is stop glossy viagra ads & smoking settlement lawsuit flyers in the mail.

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2 hours ago, bulk88 said:

Is MTA a civilian employer or law enforcment? Does an Inspector General have subpeona/discovery/law enforcement power? HIPPA is nearly wothless as everyone waves all their rights when they sign up for insurance. All HIPPA does is stop glossy viagra ads & smoking settlement lawsuit flyers in the mail.

Dunno who told you that, but you can’t sign your medical records privacy away. The only threshold is a legitimate need to know, and it has to be documented - the request - and calling out ill doesn’t meet the threshold for release to your bosses.

The line you sign when completing insurance applications is acknowledging the insurer can provide your medical information for legitimate purposes - clinical and actuarial research, claims payment, government reporting. Your name and SSN aren’t part of that.

The only time HR can have your info is if you file a work comp claim. Having the flu or a headache isn’t work comp.

(This is my industry for nearly two decades, FYI.)

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4 hours ago, Deucey said:

Hope they’re reporting that, since it’s not only a 4th Amendment violation, it’s a HIPAA violation.

MTA has been knocking on people's doors since the 70s or 80s, its survived legal challenge and Union protest for better or worse so I don't think that angle will work. They don't come to discover any medical facts about you, they just knock on your door, eyeball that you 'look sick' and are sufficiently miserable.

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2 hours ago, Jsunflyguy said:

MTA has been knocking on people's doors since the 70s or 80s, its survived legal challenge and Union protest for better or worse so I don't think that angle will work. They don't come to discover any medical facts about you, they just knock on your door, eyeball that you 'look sick' and are sufficiently miserable.

The Transit Authority guys just want to make sure you're at home and not at Belmont Park or Atlantic City.  In RTO if you had to leave the house for any reason such as a doctor's appointment or pharmacy you would call them when you were leaving,  give a destination,  and call them when you returned home. I saw the inspector once in 30 years.  He was actually looking for my neighbor and decided to visit me first. He looked at my pass and he left. The whole time my neighbor was sneaking into his building after visiting OTB. My friend broke his leg in a motorcycle accident and he came home from Kings County Hospital and they put him in bed. I came by to check on him and a TA inspector drove up and got out of his car and followed me to the gate. He said he had to see my friend and I told him that I would bring his pass and his mother, an RN, to the gate but going into the house was a no-no. He started to protest but when Gus and Zeke,  the dobermans, came out of the house he changed his tune. He couldn't understand why they didn't get excited when I went through the gate. My friend and I saw the same inspector at Nathan's at Coney Island one day and we teased him about the incident.  He said that my department,  RTO, and Surface, were the main targets for visits , and the visit to my friend,  an RCI at the time, was not the norm. He  said that many times he would go to a house and the wife or girlfriend didn't know the person wasn't at work and wasn't home either. I have heard of a doctor,  TSS,  team visiting RTO people late in my career. I guess it's like that anywhere you go.  There's always something or someone who gives everyone a bad name. Carry on. 

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