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Rule MTA Must Bring Bus Ops to ‘Pick’ Site

Published: August 19, 2013

Publication: The Chief

By Sarah Dorsey

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority must shuttle on-duty Bronx Bus Operators from their buses to the depot where, four times a year, they choose their new routes, an arbitrator ruled Aug. 9, upholding what Transport Workers Union Local 100 officials say is a contract guarantee.

According to the Local 100 pact, Operators pick their routes by seniority. As arbitrator Richard Adelman noted in his decision, they don’t have to attend the pick personally; they can send in their preferences by phone, on a slip of paper, or through a friend.

Most Opt to Show Up

But unless you’re at the top of the list, it’s much better to attend in person, Local 100 attorney Arthur Schwartz said. Your choice will likely depend on what’s still available by the time you’re called—and you can’t know in advance which routes the people ahead of you will pick.

In the 1980s, drivers used to pull their buses off the road in the middle of a shift to attend picks. The MTA sought to end the practice, and in 1999, the union and the agency agreed to bring in the so-called “pick cars” to smooth the operation in The Bronx, where the depots are farther apart. A replacement driver takes over the route until the original Operator returns.

This year’s dispute began when an MTA official sent out a letter July 3 canceling the practice, and the union objected. Money is tight now, the MTA argued, and using the cars costs more than $270,000 a year. Agency officials also said they’d allowed the cars as a way of easing logistical difficulties, at a time when the MTA’s finances were stronger. They never intended it to be an official matter of collective bargaining, they claim.

Mr. Adelman sided with Local 100, in a decision issued two days after the MTA, apparently riled at his recent decisions in favor of the union, handed him his three-month notice. (Most recently, he banned the agency from disciplining a Bus Operator it found to have sexually harassed a supervisor.)

‘A Substantive Right’

Mr. Adelman raised the possibility that a mobile app could solve this problem in the future. But for now, he said, bus drivers have a right to be there when routes are chosen.

“Being present at the Pick is clearly a substantive right as it enables the Bus Operator to make an informed selection based on all the positions available at the time he/she is making the selection,” he said. “[It’s] substantively different than making a selection in advance on a slip of paper, or having someone else make the selection for him/her, or even making the selection by telephone …rely[ing] on information provided by whoever is on the line.”

The MTA declined to comment on the decision, though if officials knew of Mr. Adelman’s pending decision when they decided to fire him, their actions reverberated louder than their spokespeople.

Mr. Schwartz questioned the monetary figure given by the MTA, saying, “How that costs $270,000 a year is way beyond me. It’s only a couple days a year. Some of the [replacement] drivers might be on extra lists” and thus wouldn’t be getting overtime for the work.

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