Staten Island Bus Drivers Sick Day Controversy

The winter of 2009-2010 was a brutal one for the tri-state area. Storm after storm battered the region & left traveling dangerous or near impossible for many. When the weather was extremely bad, many businesses closed early or entirely. However some industries do not have such luxuries & public transportation is one of them.

This past Friday, a report in the New York Daily News by Pete Donohue takes a look at how up to 21% of Staten Island bus drivers called in sick before February’s storms:

What a snow job!

As the city braced for a major snow storm Feb. 9, 88 bus drivers – nearly 21% – at the Castleton bus depot in Staten Island didn’t show up for work, according to NYC Transit data.

And at Staten Island’s Yukon bus depot, 67 drivers – more than 15% of workers – were missing in action, according to the agency.

While absenteeism was up at other depots, those on Staten Island led the pack in snow storm no-shows, which transit officials say can’t simply be blamed on the stormy weather.

“Clearly there are cases where people are taking advantage of sick-day policies, and when and where we are able, we’re going to go after those cases in a very serious way,” MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

The sick calls started coming in heavier than usual early on Feb. 9 – many hours before the first flakes fell, transit officials said.

Vinnie Serapiglia – vice president of Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 726, which represents NYC Transit drivers on Staten Island – said bus operators likely didn’t go to work because they anticipated a tough commute home, adding that many live in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“I don’t understand the thinking of the transit authority,” he said. “The guys come here and put their all into the job, and it seems like they are constantly under attack by management.”

I must say I do not care for this report. Personally, I find it nothing more than an attack piece against drivers who live out of state. Judging by the responses of some to the report, it is considered a bad thing that some drivers live out of state while working for the transit agency. They seem to take issue with drivers calling in sick in fear of having tough or impossible commutes home during major storms.

Tell me, what exactly is wrong with workers living out of state & being concerned about their commute? Is it fair for everyone else outside of the public transportation sector to worry about their commutes but not the ones providing them to millions daily? Where is the fair & balanced view in that? Did these individuals ever take into account how the quality of life & cost of living is better outside of NYC? Why should they pay more just to say they live closer to their place of employment?

Realistically speaking, bus service in Staten Island is the absolute worst in the city. Instead of focusing on attacking employees calling in sick prior to a major storm, how about implementing better strategies to provide quality service in the borough? Instead of always going after the blue collar workforce that makes this agency run 24×7, how about being more proactive in disciplining wasteful actions of management, contractors, & the like? The never-ending war between the MTA & its blue collar workforce needs to stop for the better of both parties as well as the riders themselves. Anything less is completely unacceptable!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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