Friday, August 6, 2010

Taken for a Ride

When a passenger enters onto a Long Island Railroad (LIRR) car he is tacitly agreeing to pay for the service he is about to receive.  If he cannot offer a ticket upon request by the conductor he could be subject to fine and imprisonment for theft of services.
Photo credit: Newsday File, Alejandra Villa
MTA workers work on LIRR equipment
at the Hillside facility. (March 11, 2010)
The union members who have been gaming a system they helped break by claiming and accepting overtime when none was warranted or documented are also stealing.  Their supervisors who at the very least have been looking the other way aided and abetted the crime.
These workers are as guilty of theft as are the un-ticketed passengers and should be subject to the same legal scrutiny and possible prosecution.
According to an audit of the MTA & LIRR as reported by Newsday nearly 3,300 employees took overtime pay that equaled more than half their yearly salaries!
Making an assumption that one of those average workers was making $80,000 per year (believe it or not a conservative estimate) that would amount to a minimum of $264,000,000 paid out in excessive overtime payments!  The LIRR is claiming as justification to raise fares and lower services a shortfall in the amount of $900 million!  I believe we just found a huge chunk of that shortfall.
And note the theoretical amount of $264 million that was basically stolen from the pockets of Long Islanders is comprised of only those workers whose overtime claims were more than 50% of their yearly salary.  It must be assumed that if all the overtime over-payments were added up the amount would be far greater and possibly enough to forego many of the service cuts or fare increases.
A further investigation found that 77% of the overtime allowed for payment was undocumented and should not have been claimed!
To those who may point out that there is a contract that allows for overtime and it was fairly negotiated between the unions and management I submit that fraud trumps contracts.  And we have precedent for an argument that questions, “what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is!”
If further investigation reveals that the smoke is indeed fraud prosecution must be sought.
At a time when so many American workers are being forced to accept 10% salary cuts or join the millions on unemployment and the entire economy is struggling to stay away from the abyss it must be comforting to know that a large chunk of workers in New York are going to be receiving automatic yearly raises in the amount of 4%.
The bottom line is as a result of these findings each and every overtime payment that has been made must be scrutinized.  If it is determined that the overtime was unwarranted or faked the worker must return the amount and face whatever further legal penalties our system decides!  The supervisor who allowed the irregularity must answer for his part in the alleged crime as well.
We pay to keep the MTA and LIRR running not only with our ticket purchases but with our taxes.  We are therefore entitled to know exactly where our money is being spent or thrown away.  And if the accounting shows irregularities those responsible must pay!
The State and Local governments owe that to those of us who have not yet left Long Island but may be forced to do so shortly.

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