Sep 15, 2015|
Steve Poftak of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board discusses the steps the MBTA are taking to control the absenteeism issue
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The news you need. Live from the boston.com newsroom it's the boston.com morning show on the voice of Boston WRK. 820 read welcome back everyone to tell yet the MBTA has been an absentee problem major absentee. When you do some stats so. If you're going to be TH user of wine they're causing a lot of headaches these absentee problems from January. Through August of this year MBTA had to drop 34000. 702. Trips. That's about 2% of the one point eight million scheduled for a year. Operator absence. Accounted for 68 point 7%. Of those dropped trips she had this problem is it nobody to drive the trains. Unscheduled absences cost the MBTA seven million dollars. In overtime. In fiscal 2015. They have a huge absentee problem were manages to calling in quote sick of that they're calling in sick and there's a there's a reason behind us and our next guest is gonna help a sort of reason through this. And ETA recognize that they have this problem and trying to do something about it joining us is Steve. Both tack he is the executive director of the Rappaport institute for Greater Boston Harvard Kennedy school but he's also on the tees fiscal and management control board. Steve thank you for being part of the show this morning. There seems to be one direction in which everyone can point as to why these absentees are occurring so often correct. I yes well you've got a couple reasons ever I think one of the things were taken a look at news. Sort of eligibility Ian usage. And the LA leads. Right did the family leave act the family Medical Leave Act. Correct yes be a significant portion you mention it this year. We had dropped 7% drop trips we're due operator apps that. About half of those were due to utilization about a mile it. And obviously there's a number of you know the number of legitimate reasons for use about a ballot we wanna take a look at that just make sure that. Everything everything instance is being done by the vote here and not a clear standards complacent everyone understands. What eligibility. And LA games. Right now my understanding is that there's a very strict attendance policy and for that mere matter of very strict. Late policy for the MBTA and what happens here is that people get caught and their late or whatever the case may be in suddenly. They're using your they're using the FM LA as an excuse as a way to get out of the repercussions that may be associated with that. Yeah I mean it's sort of by necessity right where Libya and Egypt should be in the business of being on. So some people need to be at their posts. Step for Skittles. So we're trying to take a look at. All aspects of stood everyone only understandably policy do we have a were Rick they're probably. Earned about an LA. Into account the step do we have the right mix up our employees overtime and part time employees to make sure that we don't mask. You know on the order you know at least you on this this statistic you gave about 30000 trips. Each you know each period. Under the impression that the Family and Medical Leave Act was used for long term excuse. I I would say it's probably more complicated than that it can be used it can be used on an intermittent basis to provide care you have a oneself or simply number. Someone who may have like a chronic illness who need periodic. Attention either you know trips to the hospital and whatnot. So there is you it is it's complicated. Sort of problem for the seat take a look at. Could there sure you know other there are there are many legitimate reasons and urban legitimate users of up an outlet who worked at. And our intent is not to. Not to punish those people it's to make sure that we have clear standards in place everyone understands the rules. And that the rules are fairly enforced across the entire workforce. Duke Team please have paid sick time. And it does that vary depending on how long we've worked for that he or is it a standard across the board. That that's it it's that's a good question. I'd probably distorted the HR well and that I don't. Complete knowledge of of how about just. This marks. Because you're really talking about people who are going beyond it may be there 56 days or something like that. No that's correct yeah I mean when you look at the operator out this appears to talk about in our this year about half. But the operator apps and to urge you to open LA. Yen about bits are viewed as sort of the standard sick leave this and you and I understand. Sure absolutely. Another was a number of absences during the course of that time they were related to weather as well correct. Yeah yes. You know there were particularly have the stretch of absences during that you're a letter which contributed to drops drop trips as well and I think. Obviously it's problematic to about into the that are I think. I'm you all of us who went through that period also understand report tremendous demands on everyone related to I'm. Don't tell me like if you have kids might Hitler and the lot school in February. And there are you know that obviously put pressure on you pull out and he and we understand. I think going forward we're trying to out a clear and consistent policy where. Up and LA leads you know looks consistent with other state and private sector entity. In that we also have a plan in place burst out you know we have typing Mitchell right so that or not dropping so many trips. Deep to operate opulence. Sure absolutely yeah I'm looking at what this cost so about unscheduled absences cost the MBTA seven million dollars in overtime. Which is a lot than we had vacancy costs so that's more overtime so that was four million. And unscheduled absences. Which cost of the three. So we're talking about fourteen million dollars. In the MBTA. Schedule that were related to individuals who were not in their post. That's a lot of money and some of that that the cost of doing business right some of Asher is. You know you're gonna have vacancies and you know we're we're looking at the issue of what's more what's actually more cost efficient it is more efficient higher. Employee all time fully loaded with benefits. Ordered more efficient actually pay overtime. You know which is that sort of a one off costs. We're trying to take a look at what the right mix. Employees. But obviously some about the cost of doing business some of that as the cost. You know not having clear accountability in place not having standards in place and to the extent that we can reduce that number to go around and get out the item that's what. You know that's what this agreement nation of absenteeism about. So how quickly can this problem be rectified I mean you're talking about trying to clear up but you know any kind of misconception about what the family Medical Leave Act. Eligibility is how quickly can aboard like the one you serve on take care of these issues so that we don't see these. You know maybe fourteen million dollar overruns as a result of absenteeism. I think we can take you know we can take clear steps and you know I think there's an acknowledgment across the board. Even you know even from you know other stakeholders. Like summer labor unions that. You know there's. Live there is substantial figure to have to deal would be a rally issue. We're gonna bring in additional staff to look at a after malaise certification and up annihilate leave. Right now as I understood that they present in the meeting yesterday that one person who handles 2000 applications. Four up and LA. Certifications you know surely does not a high level of scrutiny right now. Now impossible for one person that that type I think probably piled up anything. Sure. In a given period so I think with some you know what some attention to this issue. I think we can you know we can deal. We can do portion. I think it a longer term it should Peter out more you know he can charge what the right. And Steve quickly what kind of pushed decade getting from the Boston Carmen union. I think the bottom. Or are. My senses you know my sense am. Is that you know they understand some of these issues. You sit there on an ally. Hand arm you know I don't think you know I don't think there's been done back at least on on on that particular issue. I am you know I think this is something where. I would say internally at Petit but he hasn't job of southern house sitting out the rules. It and sort of making making the standard known for employees and we sort of created you know we a lot of culture that developed where there's a lot of him but he. From allies. Though I you know I I don't think there that's been an area. Well I aids and it's amazing this that the numbers are amazing and I recognize that some of those drop trips so the result of weather and and whatnot but. 60% because of absenteeism. Sounds like two meters there's a pretty big absentee issue. Yeah it's a big it's obviously a big problem you know be will be impeached its job is to be on time I'm air right. You know I look into their theory dictates greatly one you know almost one point eight million trips you know I know that he that the rider myself. I remember that Mitt strips in the late trips more than I do you know the ones that they weren't so you know we wanna get. Outnumbered 30000 number we wanna get that as close as we chances. You bet she protect thank you very much for joining us this morning. 833 here on the WRKO boston.com. Morning show on or Laurie you know how coaches. Idle mind go to war I never I had no idea that the family Medical Leave Act could be used for short term absenteeism I thought that was. You know twelve weeks. Because money you know my my child has some. Issue war I have an issue or my mother has absolutely I had no idea that you know and and the the problem here comes down to this. And I want to I want actually read this two year. We have a strict attendance policy and if you are late unfortunately there are repercussions. And because of those repercussions. We have seen a trained in the use and overuse. Of Afghan LA leave policy. So you're running late for work you get an extra game you don't want to. You know get your your pay cut back or you don't wanna lose part of your vacation time say colleges say. I'm. A benefit to any other to the doctors and others answered embedded in an awful. Six or 72666868. Is our number we'd like to know what you think what can they do about absenteeism. At the MBTA.