Monday, March 1, 2010

Free Advice To The Mayor And The Bus Company

So Mayor Dave wants the big bosses at Madison Metro Transit to “rein in” their overtime expenses and stop paying bus drivers over a hundred grand a year. Well, hallelujah! It’s not like this abuse hasn’t been going on for well over a decade. Quite a few years back, the State Journal pointed out the highest-paid City of Madison employee was a bus driver.

Apparently nobody got riled up about it, and nobody did anything.

A week or so ago, again, the State Journal published a list of highest-paid city employees, and whaddyaknow…there’s a whole mess of bus drivers at the “tippy-top”, as the late Gene Parks would have said.

But now – with unemployment, even in “recession-proof” Madison running rampant, and the collapse of the economy, there’s a LOT of pushback. And this time, Mayor Cieslewicz claims he’s going to put an end to it.

Quick question: why is the city’s bus company allowed to run its operations so sloppily that this problem even happens? You mean to tell me they didn’t see this HUGE overrun in overtime hours coming, and didn’t say anything about it to anybody, until the paper put it on the front page? (Answer: nobody cared, until now.)

And how come nobody cares about this stuff until unemployment soars and the economy tanks – what kind of management is THAT?

If you have ignored the story, which has been playing out for days now, there are about a dozen senior bus drivers who hog up all the overtime (because their union contract ALLOWS them to) and they’re all pulling down well over a hundred grand a year by working 85 or 90 hours a week.

And now that what’s left of the local media is paying attention to it, they’ve found out there’s a whole passel of bus mechanics who are gaming the system and lining their pockets, running the same scam.

Good lord, if these bus drivers….holders of Commercial Drivers Licenses, all of them….were hauling potato chips or hogs, instead of human beings, they’d never get away with it. Too many laws and rules against it. State Troopers would stop their rigs at the scales and they’d sit until a new driver could be brought in….just like they do on commercial flights, where the pilots can only be at the controls for a specified number of hours in a day.

So, how do we end this practice of city bus drivers with the most seniority getting first dibs on overtime hours, and hogging it all up? Simple. New rule. Has to do with passenger safety, so it trumps all the other stuff. And the new rule still lets the most senior drivers have first dibs on OT.

Here’s the new rule:

No city transit bus driver shall be allowed to work more than X number of hours per week.

Let the managers figure out what the value for X should be…50, 55, whatever. And put the rule into effect tomorrow.

You’re welcome.


  1. Not sure how it works in MadTown, but way out east in the Biggest Apple, bus drivers also rake in hefty paychecks. There's an interesting explanation for it.

    The retirement pay of transportation workers is based on their pay for the last two years of their employment. So during their final 730 days on the job they contrive to clock in for as much overtime as possible. It is not unusual to see not just bus drivers but even clerical staff and office-management folks putting in an extra 40 to 60 hours a week parking buses at depots, or other chores worthy of paying them 1.5 times the going rate - or even more on holidays.

    Their fellows, including supervisors, abet this pay-padding practice because they intend to use it too. One trick that perpetuates the practice is for middle management to see to it that there is a chronic shortage of bus cleaners and washers and parkers and taillight-checkers and what have you.

    That's the way it's done in NYC, but I cannot imagine it happening in Madison, WI.

  2. Unhhh....

    When white-collar and blue-collar workers are "negotiating" a contract which provides the SAME benefits to both parties, s&^% happens.

    You could look at GM/FoMoCo/Chrysler, or at any 'public-employee-union' negotiation.

    And to make it even more cruel, the taxpayers provide the money for BOTH of these!

  3. Why is it bad for a bus driver - working hundreds of hours of overtime - to earn over $100K, while managers, administrators, CEO's etc. working a regular 40 hour week often reap that and much more?

    Is it bad that someone who works 60-80 hours per week - time away from families, home, leisure pursuits etc., working a job where they're routinely verbally and physically abused, spit on - and responsible for thousands of lives each day - earns a good living?

    Is it the green dollar - or the blue collar - that you anti-bus-driver ranters are railing at?

  4. To my anonymous poster, above:

    It's not bad to work 60-80 hours a week, when that happens four or five times a year. It's BAD when it happens EVERY week, and as you no doubt know, the top 12 Metro drivers were working WELL over 60 hours a week - more like 85 and 90, week after week. No trucking company would allow this. The driver would be a hazard to anyone else on the road.

    I think the drivers' pay, which is around $40 an hour, is a fair wage. And if they work 20 hours of overtime in a week, I don't begrudge them the extra 12 hundred bucks, not one bit.

    Share the wealth and reduce the risk, anonymous.