After Hurricane Sandy, the MTA and its employees earned a tremendous amount of good will from New Yorkers by quickly and (for the most part) transparently working to get the city's sprawling mass transit system (mostly) back in service. But all good things must come to an end. Yesterday the MTA started talking to the "public" about its fare hike plans while simultaneously getting into a fight with their biggest union over payment during Sandy. A union, by the way, that still doesn't have a contract.
Last night Transport Workers Union, Local 100 President John Samuelsen sent out a scathing message saying that the MTA had reneged on an agreement to pay workers who were unable, or told not, to come in to work on October 29 and 30, even if they didn't call in. He says that MTA management promised workers would be paid for the days and have now taken it back. "They have thoroughly demonstrated that their word means nothing, and that they do not know the meaning of good faith," he wrote. Seriously, Samuelsen is not amused:
In some departments, we were outright told to stay home with pay for Monday and Tuesday. We were not given the option of coming into work. In every department, we were prevented from getting into work because of the decision of the Governor to shut the system down. The decision was not ours and we should not have to bear the cost.
By this decision, management shows what they truly think of the round the clock effort we have made to get the bus and subway system back running after Hurricane Sandy. They show how little respect they have for their workforce. During the hurricane, and then during the mammoth effort to restore service, the MTA praised local 100 for the incredibly difficult work we performed. But actions speak louder than words, and we must never forget this assault on our paychecks. Every worker at the TA, OA and MTA Bus should remember this when asked to make an extra effort "for the good of the service". Unfortunately, the MTA does not deserve our "extra effort".
The MTA is certainly not the only employer playing hard with workers over lost days but the timing of this fight seems poor—what with reports of MTA employees working lots of double shifts recently to get the trains running. Especially with those employees being members of a union that is working without a contract. On the plus side, after the last strike TWU doesn't really have the money to strike again? "This union is simply not organizationally prepared to strike," Samuelsen said a few weeks before the storm. A strike is "off the table, not forever, but it's off the table."
We've reached out to the MTA for comment on this spat, and got a message similar to the one NYC Transit President Thomas Prendergast told the Daily News: that the agency understands why workers are upset over being docked when they could not get into work, "But if someone never called in, never let us know what they were going to do, and never came into work, we’re not going to pay them."
Prendergast went on to say
If the agency “automatically” paid workers who were missing in action withou having a valid reason, it ran the risk of having more workers shirk their responsibilities in the future, Prendergast said. At some point, the authority could be faced with an emergency and not have sufficient manpower, he said.
Prendergast says that only "hundreds, not thousands" of 34,000 workers would get their pay docked or be forced to use their sick days or vacation days.