THE MTA’S OVERTIME PROBLEM

The transit agency is facing serious scrutiny after dozens of employees raked in millions in overtime. We have the details.

Aired on May 17, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

WHEN IT COMES TO OVERTIME AT THE MTA, AND PARTICULARLY AT THE LONG ISLAND RAILROAD, THE NUMBERS ARE SHOCKING.

FOR EXAMPLE, ONE LIIR EMPLOYEE REPORTEDLY EARNED $344,000 IN OVERTIME PAY LAST YEAR.

THAT'S NEARLY 4,000 HOURS OF EXTRA WORK.

HE'S NOT ALONE.

THIS IS PART OF A TREND AT THE MTA, WHERE DOZENS OF EMPLOYEES HAVE PULLED IN MILLIONS IN OT.

GOVERNOR CUOMO IS NOT HAPPY SAYING THIS IS NOT ABOUT OVERTIME BUT RATHER ABOUT STEALING AND FRAUD.

WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?

WHO IS TO BLAME?

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?

JOINING US WITH ANSWERS IS THE TRANSIT REPORTER GREG MACKER.

I WONDER IF YOU CAN ELABORATE AND GIVE US A BETTER SENSE OF THE KIND OF OVERTIME WE'RE TALKING ABOUT.

YEAH.

WE UNDERSTAND LONG DAYS HERE IN NEW YORK AND PUTTING IN YOUR TIME AND GETTING COMPENSATED FOR IT.

BUT SOME OF THOSE SCHEDULES WOULD BE HUMANLY IMPOSSIBLE TO WORK THAT MANY HOURS OVER A CERTAIN TIME.

YEAH.

THE PERSON I POINTED OUT TO IN THE INTRODUCTION.

ACCORDING TO PEOPLE WHO DONE THE MATH HE WOULD HAVE TO WORK 22.5 EVERY WORKDAY.

EXACTLY.

PART MIGHT BE BECAUSE OF THE WAY THINGS ARE SET UP YOU GET CREDIT OR DOUBLE TIME.

YEAH.

THEY NEED TO HAVE HAD THIS CONVERSATION ALREADY.

THEY HAD AN EMERGENCY MEETING LAST WEEK WITH THE BOARD TO ADDRESS SOME OF THESE THINGS THE SPECIFIC CASES AND THEN THE BIG PICTURE OF HOW THEY KIND OF MONITOR OVERTIME AGENCY BY AGENCY.

SO THAT'S MY QUESTION, I MEAN, THE MTA BOSSES WERE SHOCKED.

SHOCKED WHEN IT BECAME PUBLIC.

LIKE YOU SAID, THEY HAD AN EMERGENCY MEETING ABOUT IT AND HIRED OUTSIDE CONSULT ASSISTANTS TO LOOK INTO IT.

BUT THESE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE WHO PAID THE OVERTIME.

YEAH.

AND THERE'S A PROCESS IN THERE.

AND EACH AGENCY PRESIDENT WENT THROUGH THAT.

THEY HAVE AN ELECTRONIC SYSTEM OF SWIPING IN AND OUT.

THEY'RE MOVING TO UPGRADE THAT.

THAT OVERTIME DOES HAVE TO BE APPROVED.

THEY POINTED OUT THIS IS A HANDFUL OF WORKERS.

EVEN JUST IN TRANSIT.

THERE ARE 50,000 WORKERS.

THE LIRR HAS TENS OF THOUSANDS OF WORKERS.

TO SEE THE TOP EARNERS ARE GETTING THAT MUCH, IT HAS BEEN RAISING RED FLAGS.

IT SHOULD HAVE.

IT COMES DOWN TO MAKING EVERY DOLLAR COUNT.

YEAH.

DO THE BOSSES NOT KNOW OR NOW IT'S PUBLIC THEY HAVE TO REACT?

I THINK IT'S A LITTLE BIT THAT HAVE.

WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CONTRACT NEGOTIATION SEASON AGAIN.

THE LIRR RAILROAD CONTRACTS ARE UP, TRANSIT IS UP.

THIS CERTAINLY PUTS IT OUT IN THE PUBLIC EYE NOW.

THIS KIND OF UNDERSTANDING THE BU BUREAUCRACY.

MANAGEMENT TOOK PART OF THE RESPONSIBILITY.

YOU DON'T WANT TO BLAME THE WORK FERS THEY'RE FOLLOWING WHAT THE PROCEDURE IS.

ALSO, IF THEY'RE NOT, WHO IS FINDING THAT OUT?

AND NO ONE COULD SAY AT THE MEETING.

YOU KNOW, DID THAT GUY THAT MADE OVERTIME --

RIGHT.

WAS WITHIN THE BOUNDS.

IF IT WAS, THEN THE SYSTEM IS WHAT WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT AND NOT TO CRITICIZE THE WORKER.

RIGHT.

AND LET ME GET TO THAT IN A SECOND.

GOVERNOR CUOMO SAID IT'S ABOUT THEFT AND FRAUD.

IS HE RIGHT?

THEY DON'T KNOW.

AND THE UNION REPS ON THE BOARD WERE ANGRY THAT ALMOST THERE WAS AN INDICTMENT OF THE WORKERS.

AND THEY TALKED ABOUT POSSIBLE FRAUD OR THINGS.

AGAIN BECAUSE IT MIGHT BE OPERATING WITHIN WHAT THESE WORK RULES ARE.

THERE COULD BE SOME BAD APPLES.

THEY ALL SAID THAT, TOO.

THEY NEED TO FIGURE THAT OUT.

YEAH.

THERE'S A LOT OF PEOPLE.

POLICY ANALYSTS SAYING WHAT YOU SAID.

OKAY, THERE'S LIKELY SOME FRAUD INVOLVED HERE.

BUT THE REAL FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM IS THE STRUCTURE OF THE CONTRACTS.

BECAUSE THEY INCLUDE A LOT OF WORK RULES THAT KIND OF DEMAND, KIND OF MAKE NECESSARY THE EXTENSIVE AND EXPENSIVE OVERTIME.

TALK ABOUT THAT.

AUTOMATIC DOUBLE TIME FOR SOME THINGS, EVEN WORKING ON THE WEEKENDS IS HARD TO SCHEDULE AND OVERNIGHT.

IF YOU KNOW, THE SYSTEM THAT'S WHEN THEY'RE DOING A LOT OF THIS WORK.

BOTH ON THE RAILROADS AND WITHIN TRANSIT.

BECAUSE THAT'S ALMOST AN AUTOMATIC MULTIPLIER OF THINGS.

AND WE WANT TO REWARD PEOPLE FOR DOING THEIR JOB AND FOR WORKING OUTSIDE OF WHAT THE REGULAR TIME IS.

BUT THIS HIGHLIGHTS KIND OF THE STRUCTURE AND THE WAY THINGS HAVE BEEN.

WE HEARD FROM ELECTED LEADERS THAT DOING THINGS THE WAY WE HAVE IS NOT THE WAY TO CONTINUE.

YEAH.

LET'S SEGUE.

WE HAVE ABOUT A MINUTE LEFT.

A STORY THAT MET THE HEADLINES INTERNATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY.

THE ONE THAT WAS IGNITED BY A VIDEO OF A GUY -- A VIDEO OF A WORKER AS HE WAS HEADING FOR WORK OF A SUBWAY CAR.

IT WAS A TWO GOING DOWNTOWN EARLY IN THE MORNING.

I MEAN, AS WE SEE.

IT'S TERRIBLE.

YEAH.

AND THE QUESTION IS, IS THAT THE NEW NORMAL?

WE HAVEN'T SEEN MORE OF THEM BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR THEM AND THEY'RE FED UP WITH THEM AND WE POSTED ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND TAKEN INTO THE OFFICIALS.

AND AT ANY GIVEN TIME, THERE'S A COUPLE THOUSAND, 3,000 CARS ON THE SYSTEM.

FOR SOMEBODY TO BE ABLE TO GET INTO ONE AND THEN HAVE IT RIDE UP-AND-DOWN AND THEN MAYBE EVEN CONTINUE TO BE IN OPERATION IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE THING.

THOSE CARS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE WALKED THROUGH AT LEAST AT THE END OF EVERY TERMINAL WHEN IT GETS TO THE END OF ONE LINE THEN THE OTHER.

HOW IS THE NTA RESPONDING?

THEY'RE SAYING NYPD AND HOMELESS SERVICES AND SOME OF THE OUTREACH ADMINISTRATORS NEED TO WORK MORE WITH THEM TO ADDRESS WHAT IS THE HOMELESS PROBLEM.

CLEANING UP A CAR IS ONE THING.

BUT IF THERE IS A -- IF THE SYSTEM IS BEING USED, AND IT IS, PEOPLE ARE STAYING THERE OR CAMPING THERE OR THEY'RE LIVING THERE ALMOST AND THAT'S INDICATIVE OF A BIGGER PROBLEM.

THEY'RE SAYING THEY'RE STEPPING UP ENFORCEMENT.

THE MAYOR ACKNOWLEDGED THAT.

THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE.

WE SEE THIS AND IT'S A REMINDER OF WHERE WE ARE.

RIGHT.

ALL RIGHT.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, GREG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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