T overtime, unscheduled absences declining

Many dropped trips due to shortage of workers

MBTA OFFICIALS reported on Monday they are having success reducing overtime and unscheduled absences by employees.

Brian Shortsleeve, the T’s chief administrative officer, said the authority is on track to cut overtime expenditures by 25 percent in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. He said overtime averaged $119,000 a day during the first 64 days of 2016, a figure that was 54 percent lower than in the first 64 days last year.

The comparison is a bit misleading because last year the T was struggling to dig out from crippling snowstorms and this year has had almost no snow to deal with. For all of 2015, the daily average overtime expenditure was $154,000.

Shortsleeve said unscheduled absences by T workers are also falling, thanks largely to changes in the way the Family and Medical Leave Act is being administered. He said the T is monitoring FMLA absences more closely and also requiring employees who are out of work under the act to first use earned sick time, contracted sick time, or vacation time until it is gone.

T officials said unscheduled absences by T workers are down across the board so far this year. Officials said bus and train operators missed 9 percent of the days they were eligible to work in the first 64 days of the year due to unscheduled absences, compared to 12.7 percent for all of 2015.

Shortsleeve said unscheduled absences often lead to dropped bus and train trips. With the decline in unscheduled absences, the number of dropped trips is also falling. But the T’s data indicate the cause of lost trips is not simply due to workers failing to show up for work. There is also a sharp difference in causes for bus and rail trips.

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About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Of the 4,658 bus trips dropped so far this year, the data indicate 32 percent of the cancellations were because the T doesn’t have enough workers to cover the routes. The data indicate 19 percent of the trips were dropped because a driver was out sick and 17 percent because the driver was out under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Of the 484 rail trips dropped so far this year, nearly half were caused by some equipment problem and 8 percent were due to a shortage of workers to man the controls. Sickness and FMLA leaves played a minor role as the cause of dropped trips.