I know everyone was trying to figure out earlier how someone could work 2,648 hours of overtime. Here’s the answer.
MBTA bosses admitted yesterday that nearly half of the money they spent on overtime went to T employees who weren’t even clocking in for a full work week — thanks to a sweetheart union perk that can mean big paydays for workers.
The MBTA doled out nearly $32 million — or 43 percent of OT spending in fiscal 2015 — to staffers who worked fewer than 40 hours the same week they received overtime pay, new agency data shows.
The T’s top earner in 2015 worked more than twice as many overtime hours as regular hours, records show. The maintenance worker, whose annual pay rate was only $85,000, raked in more than $315,000 last year by banking 2,648 hours of overtime. In contrast, he worked fewer than 2,000 hours of straight time — the equivalent of less than 40 hours a week.
According to Herald calculations based on T records, the maintenance staffer would have had to work nearly 13 hours per day every single day of the year in 2015 to compile the 4,623 total hours that the MBTA says he spent on the clock.
It could not be determined whether the maintenance worker earned overtime by using a sick leave loophole popular among T employees and allowed under the union contract.
According to officials, the loophole works like this: A T employee calls in sick and then picks up overtime shifts later in the same week, punching in for roughly the same number of hours — or less — at the higher OT rate.
MBTA staffers who call in sick can also earn overtime during the same week by working more than eight hours during a single shift — even if they only work half their normal hours that week. That’s because union contracts don’t require MBTA workers to hit 40 hours in a work week before earning overtime.
“To some extent, absenteeism and overtime are linked,” said MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve. “One of the things that we started on over the summer … is a whole set of new leave policies.”
A Herald investigation last year revealed T employees abusing FMLA leave, which allows workers to take unpaid time off for a serious illness or to take care of a sick relative. The federal leave provision was used by 50 percent of Carmen’s Union members in fiscal 2014 — compared with up to 10 percent in all the state government, according to T officials.
The agency announced that a MassDOT internal auditor is scrutinizing T overtime, a move that comes after Gov. Charlie Baker and members of the MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board called for OT audits last month.
MBTA overtime spending has skyrocketed — jumping from $61 million in 2014 to $75 million in 2015, according to the T.
I just want to contrast this information with the all the unrestricted calls on BMG to give the T more money, and the BMG deriding of Gov Baker when he said he needed more information on MBTA spending before committing more resources. Maybe it does need more money, but that money needs to go to what will actually improve service, not into OT loopholes.
It’s stories like this that will continue to build support for his efforts to actually fix “stuff.”