Overtime Limits Part of Contract Negotiations?

Fatigue due to excessive overtime (OT) is in the news again.

I found it interesting that WMATA sees this serious safety issue as a ‘bargaining chip’:

“Metro officials have said they plan to rely on a study released last week by the Tri-State Oversight Committee on worker fatigue as leverage in the upcoming negotiations for the new contract.”

I wonder how that might play out?:

[WMATA to Local 689]: “OK, we’ll let your members work 24 hours straight if they’ll agree to pay 10% more toward their health insurance premiums…”

This is a safety related issue and should not be used as leverage in the contract negotiations.  It is management’s responsibility to do the right thing and follow the advice of the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC).  To do otherwise is tantamount to announcing that WMATA will raise the acceptable blood alcohol content (BAC) level if Local 689 will agree to a lower pay increase or some other concession.

The article said, “The report found that some employees occasionally work 16 hours or more in a day, as The Washington Examiner first reported in May.”

Occasionally?!  In Automatic Train Control (ATC) and other departments it is _routine_ for employees to work a double (16 hours straight).  Frequently employees will work two or more doubles in a row.

It goes on to say, “The transit agency now says it is planning to phase in a 14-hour limit by April 2014.”

There is no reason that it must take almost 2 1/2 years for the changes to be made.  That’s ridiculous.  In previous posts I’ve suggested that employees be limited to no more than 12 hours in any 24 hour period, and/or that they be allowed to work 16 hours as long as that’s followed by an 8 hour break _and_ either a regular 8 hour shift or a day off.

8, 12, or 16 hour shifts make the most sense logistically.  They either divide evenly into 24 hours or add up to 24 (8 + 16).  14 hours is an odd amount of time.  I suppose employees could be routinely scheduled for 12 hour OT shifts (either all OT or 8 regular + 4 OT) and then held over up to no more than 14 hours when absolutely necessary.

This should be interesting to watch.  My guess is that neither the union nor WMATA want to cut OT hours.  The union because there are many members who have come to rely upon OT — to pay their bills and/or to boost their ‘High 4’ (to increase their pension benefit).  WMATA because it is cheaper to pay OT than to hire additional employees.  I doubt either side will be able to fool the other.  Both would like to maintain the status quo.

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2 Responses to Overtime Limits Part of Contract Negotiations?

  1. Mike Austin says:

    During my last year of employment in CMNT I worked for five months straight pulling double shifts five days a week. That requires one hour for meal breaks, and in my case two travel hours everyday. What that meant was a total of 19 hours daily dedicated to Metro.
    Five hours max of time left to sleep and eat at home.
    I watched another mechanic (tunnel rat) work so much his car might not move from the parking lot for a week at a time.
    Sure, we are enjoying a higher pension as a result, but it was absolutely not in the best interest of workplace safety during those times. Depending on who you were, management would be glad to castrate you if anything went wrong as a result of sleep de[privation]*.

    * The author indicated that he was not done writing this comment when it was accidentally submitted. I am waiting for any additional comments he may have.

  2. This is a perfect example of what I have been writing about. An employee working double shifts 5 days/week for five months?! That’s insane. It is potentially criminally negligent of WMATA management to allow this. Well, it would be if they weren’t the 51st State. As it is they are apparently untouchable.

    Mike states that including lunch breaks and his commute he devoted 19 hours/day to Metro. That means that if he was lucky he got maybe 3.5 to 4 hours of sleep every 24 hours.

    Most people would be the equivalent of being legally drunk under those circumstances.

    It is long past time for WMATA to establish sane limits on the number of hours worked in a 24 hour period. The airlines and trucking companies do, why not Metro?

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