Friday, March 05, 2010

The MUNI Drivers Need A Dose of Reality


I'm very serious.

These drivers are pampered failures.

The city is in a budget crisis, just like everyone else. We have MUNI that is bloated and ineffecient. An organization that seems incapable of EVER meeting its own goals. Listening to the malarkey from the MUNI employees' union, and I feel the same way about them that I do the Marjor League Baseball Players Association: that I want them busted like the air-traffic controllers were back in the early 1980's.

Today in SFGate, the drivers were quoted as stating that they are unwilling to make any sacrifices in their earnings or hours. What got me the most was the quote, "More and more people are understanding that it's not our fault." Oh really?
At this point, all they were being asked to do was to forgo a pay hike. They would still be among the most highly paid employees of their type in the country. However, the greedy, inefficient union members rejected the proposal, arguing that their sacrifice was not going to completely solve the problem.

Guess what? There is no single solution to the problem. However, their salaries are a major part of the problem. The city, in its infinite wisdom, decided to award them with a pay scale that ensures that they will be paid no less than the average of the top two transit systems in the country. That by itself is not the entire problem. Part of the problem is that they have to be scheduled for full eight hour shifts... even if they are only needed to fill in for a few hours. Furthermore, as Melissa Griffin in the examiner pointed out, there are other built in boondoggles in the MUNI contract. This includes, among other things, :
-Drivers who work after 6 p.m. and before 6 a.m. earn 8 percent more for night duty. (Art.4(4)) Whose Peepaw decided 6 p.m. is nighttime?
- Drivers don’t contribute to their own retirement fund. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency pays the mandatory contribution, to the tune of $9 million a year. (Art 8(4))(The deal drivers just rejected included a provision that they make their own payment for one year.)
- There are severe restrictions on the use of part-time workers. They can’t work on cable cars, they can’t fill in for regular operators [...].
So the MUNI drivers have a sweetheart deal and do not want to give an inch. And what do we get for this sweetheart deal? It looks like an on-time average of less than 70% most years (but thanks to a stellar 77% in 2004, their three year average was 72%). And the trend is to be less on time (i.e. late). As an added bonus, we also get fewer lines and increased fares all around.


Guess what! There is a chance to start making some changes. First, we need to sack MUNI's management, because to be honest, this is a systemic problem. And when I say sack, I mean fire and give no severance to, whoever has a hand in this fiasco. Second, the city needs to tell the union that this is no longer acceptable. It needs to shred that provision in the city charter that allows for this nonsense of not negotiating with the unions and simply giving them an automatic pay raise.

Finally, the city needs to tell the union that the gravy train is over and needs to completely re-negotiate the entire contract. It needs to end the sweetheart deals that the operators get, because we simply cannot afford their inefficiencies any more. If they choose to strike, this city needs to take it and hire scabs until the union wakes up and smells the roses.

Of course, that would mean that Mr. Mayor would have to have some cojones and do something hard, instead of something popular. Too bad he isn't showing much of that lately.

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