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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Muni Workers Want Bigger Bonuses for Night Shifts

Posted By and on Tue, May 10, 2011 at 1:45 PM

click to enlarge muni_diesel_hybrid_bus.jpg

In January, SF Weekly published a cover story on the $70 million per year San Francisco spends on "premium pay" -- bonuses offered to employees for doing certain types of work. Because such pay requires no extra work and is often seemingly redundant with job descriptions -- firefighters, for example, get a bonus for driving fire trucks -- it has become a target of bean-counters at City Hall.

One category of premium pay we examined in our story was that paid to transit workers. In 2010, according to the city controller's office, the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) spent $4.4 million on premium payments to its employees. Today, the San Francisco Examiner takes an interesting look at some of these payments -- and reports that the Muni operators' union is hoping to get them boosted.

At issue is premium pay offered to drivers who work shifts between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., who get an 8 percent add-on to their normal wages. As Will Reisman at the Ex reports, this is significantly more generous than similar bonuses paid by other metropolitan transit agencies. New York pays only an extra 4.7 percent, while agencies in Boston and Washington, D.C., pay nothing extra at all.

For this reason, the MTA is hoping to reduce the night-shift premium to 4 percent in labor negotiations, Reisman reports. However, Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators, is hoping to secure a significantly higher premium of 15 percent. In defense of this money grab, TWU secretary-treasurer Walter Scott told the Examiner that the increased premium is needed to attract experienced workers to the night shift. 

Justifications of this sort are offered for all sorts of premium payments. For almost any type of work, unless your job consists of drinking margaritas at Playa del Carmen, you can argue that higher pay is needed to attract recruits. But this is usually a call made by management, not employees. Who wouldn't argue that they deserve a "premium" for the unsavory aspects of their jobs? 

The MTA apparently thinks that the current bonuses are overkill. Those in the private sector who do work they like and work they don't at the same wage or salary would probably tend to agree.

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Peter Jamison


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