Monday, November 14, 2011

Union Work Rules Add to Overtime (Ab)Use

That Metro uses (some would say abuses) overtime (OT) is old news, but now that there's an official report, the Post is all over it.

A good chunk of the OT is the result of NTSB recommendations that Metro get the system fixed and Metro's subsequent scrambling to act after decades of being asleep at the wheel.

But a lot of the problems associated with heavy OT use, such as fatigue, could be avoided, Metro sources say.

According to them, there is tremendous waste.

A major source of waste?

Union work rules.

Remember how union work rules interfere with the efficient maintenance and upkeep of the escalators? Many of the same issues effect the amount of OT Metro "needs" to use to repair the rest of the system.

For example, if OT job X requires a team comprised of two workers proficient at task A, two workers proficient at task B and one proficient at task C, the union contract with Metro limits Metro's ability to ensure those workers with those skills actually arrive at the work location to do the job.

Seniority--nothing else--determines who shows up, say the three workers we talked to. The work that needs to be done is secondary, if it is considered at all.

It all adds up to delays and more OT.

"They just go from the [seniority] list when assigning work," said one Metro worker. "You're not getting the best or right people in the right situations to get the job done."

The source said it's not uncommon for workers to show up to a job location with people only proficient at one task--not necessarily the task that needs to get done.

"There's no continuity," they said. "At every OT job location you have different people, different skills."

Another worker added to that.

"A lot of the time, the OT is 'necessary' because the job didn't get done right the first time," they said.

They added that a lot of the time it's because people who don't know what to do because they are not qualified to do the work that needs to be done or don't speak English well enough to understand what needs to be done.

"The ones who know how to do the job end up doing it all while others stand around," the source said. "We don't have the time to teach them how to do it."

Lack of coordination by Metro is another reason there's so much OT.

Workers on an OT shift often show up at an OT work site not knowing what has been done before they get there. There's no systematic way of documentation, sources say.

"We spend a lot of time figuring out what has been done and what's left to do," said one source.

That's if they're actually able to work at all.

Sources said that often there are no tools or radios available, so they have to sit around and wait.

But there's another reason causing more sitting around, all the while collecting OT pay.

"There's no coordination between departments, so if the Track Department needs to get in to a work area, another team working on something else will get bumped and end up sitting around and do nothing."

It happens all the time said another source who said they'd actually worked about half the time during their last OT shift.

Will Metro change its use of OT?

Will the union protest management's "abuse" of workers?

What's the solution?
(from the Post article)

“It will require having more people on the payroll if you’re going to have less hours of work from people when they shouldn’t be working,” [Board member Mort] Downey said.

Where will the cash-strapped agency find the money for new hires?

“We’ll figure it out,” Downey said.

I'll give you one guess as to what that means.

There's more to the OT situation at Metro, including insight into both the union's and management's addiction to it. You can read about it in this excellent post by a retired Metro worker. Here's an excerpt:
...Sadly, many employees come to rely on OT just to pay their bills. OT in Automatic Train Control (ATC) has been somewhat cyclical over the years. When there wasn’t enough to go around (for some employees there’s never enough) people would start to squabble and fight over it. Some would go so far as to break into a field office and alter the OT ledger so that it would appear as though they hadn’t received as many assignments as their coworkers!
Other items:
Metro closing National Airport stop on weekend before Thanksgiving (WMATA)
Passenger shot on Metrobus (NBC4)
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