The level of dissent between the MTA & Transport Workers Union Local 100 has been ongoing for years. Anyone who has been reading this blog over the last couple of months know that it has only intensified late with the MTA dishing out pink slips to hundreds of union members due to their budget woes. On the other side of the debate, the sometimes maligned union continues to tow the line that the agency did not do enough cutting of management positions or properly use available federal funds.
Over the last week or so, the New York Daily News highlighted the situation 2 specific bus drivers faced in terms of losing their jobs. The 2 in question serve our country overseas in the military & were going to be losing their jobs as of this weekend. As one would expect, the union took advantage of this situation to showcase how unfair it would be if they lost their jobs as one of their division chairman’s Frank Austin stated
The way Transit is laying off these two individuals who are fighting for their country is totally unpatriotic and unethical.
According to sources of the New York Daily News, due to public outrage, the MTA offered to save the jobs of these 2 workers if the union would offer up 2 senior members positions instead. The union clearly balked at this which prompted Transport Workers Union Spokesman John Gannon to say
For the MTA to ‘offer’ to steal the livelihoods and futures of two other workers and their families to blunt public outrage over their actions makes it even more reprehensible. We are talking about people, about families.
Throughout the entire process, the union has continued to say it prefers to sit down & negotiate versus waging a battle for public opinion through the media which the MTA was clearly doing for awhile. This has led to the two sides holding discussions recently to try & hammer out a deal that would benefit both sides. The latest sees the MTA offering a new proposal that would save over 700 jobs. Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News has more:
In exchange for cost-cutting concessions like a less generous pension for new hires, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority also has offered to bring back about 250 token booth clerks who were laid off just last month, sources told The News.
Short- and long-term savings from the proposal would enable the MTA to reduce the size of its staff through attrition rather than layoffs, board sources said. But budget deficits are too large for it to stop service cuts that go into effect this weekend and Monday.
Under the proposal, TWU is asked to accept three contract changes, previously accepted by other state and transit unions, affecting new hires:
* The plan offers a less generous pension. Now, most workers are eligible for full benefits at age 55 after 25 years of service. But new workers wouldn’t be eligible until they are 57 with 30 years or 66 with a decade.
* Workers would get the top hourly pay rate after five years, up from three.
* Union members would have higher contributions for their health care coverage.
Click here for the complete report.
The first thing to note is that I like the fact that both sides are sitting down & trying to hammer out a deal. The time wasted bickering with each other in the media did nothing to help the situation & only served as a way to waste time. Riders want results, not fights. Normally I bemoan the comments left to stories on the New York Daily News as it is filled with tons of idiocy. However I would like to take this time to highlight a response to this article left by the user “Trainman” who makes some excellent points:
Given the MTA’s toxic financial situation, it needs to set the bar a good deal higher than it has in this proposal. Rest assured, this measure will not right the ship, and then it will be more and more renegotiations. All the while, the people who depend on the system for transportation will suffer.
There will never be enough new money from DC or Albany or NYC taxes to sustain the current system. The only approach that might work is a four point approach.
1. Stop all over-budget and behind-schedule capital plan projects. Debt service is eating the operating budget.
2. MTA leadership must cut the cost and waste at the HQ and mgmt levels.
3. Unions must agree to work rule changes and benefit changes to save money.
4. Riders must pay more of the cost of the service they use, meaning much higher fares on buses and zone pricing for subways.
I feel he makes a good point in terms of the over budget & behind schedule capital plan projects. Don’t get me wrong, many of them are vital to the system & should be done. However if they continue to be over budget or behind schedule, they should look into stopping them & doing a thorough reevaluation on how they can improve schedule wise while keeping clearly within a strict budget.
Point #2 is one I have hammered home numerous times over the years especially during the last couple of months. Just attacking the blue collar workforce will not starve off budget woes. This is not to say that strictly attacking the management level positions will either but an accurate mix of both is completely necessary & justified.
I have routinely defended the unions over the years as I understand the need to protect their members & rightfully so. However at the same time, I have always felt & stated that they need to do that while also being fair to the MTA when possible. If the union is seriously interested in protecting their members, they need to understand that they have to work with the MTA & not help to bring them down. If they don’t, their members won’t have jobs to protect.
The last point is one that could have strong cases made for both sides. On one hand, even at current prices the bus & subway service provided is an extremely great deal. This is when you factor in the level of service compared to other major cities & the 24×7 access it provides throughout the region.
However I can also understand those against it as the level of this service has deteriorated over the years & why pay more for less. There needs to be a fine balance between the two although I can’t see zone pricing being a solution that will work or get much traction.
In the end, no matter which side of the fence you play, it is clear that changes need to be made by both parties. If they can do this & couple it with legitimate funding from the city & state, the budget woes that plague everyone from the agency down to its riders can be turned around. This is what we all need to strive for as if it not, we will all suffer the consequences.
xoxo Transit Blogger