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Audit takes MTA executives to task on OT

Long Island Rail Road commuters should expect to

Long Island Rail Road commuters should expect to see some new faces on their train with the opening of Super Bowl Boulevard Wednesday, but LIRR officials say there's enough room for everyone. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Long Island Rail Road may have paid some employees overtime for shifts they didn't work and allowed others to work overtime for long stretches without rest, according to a new state audit.

Three track workers, two foremen and an assistant track supervisor, were permitted to work 18.5 to 24 consecutive hours on top of their regular shifts on Sept. 12, 2010, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in the audit released Monday. Two weeks later, on Sept. 26, 2010, the same men claimed to have worked similar overtime hours.

"LIRR officials should monitor the number of hours employees are allowed to work consecutively without an off-duty rest period to ensure their work performance is efficient and effective and that worker and passenger safety is not compromised," DiNapoli said.

DiNapoli criticized Metropolitan Transportation Authority executives, who oversee the LIRR, for failing to closely supervise employees and allowing the abuses to occur.

The audit, which covered April 30, 2009, to June 30, 2012, looked at how the MTA spent $102.8 million in federal stimulus money intended to improve New York's transportation system.

Aaron Donovan, an LIRR spokesman, said auditors did not identify employees who were paid for overtime work they did not perform. "Further, while the comptroller's office suggested that long hours of continuous work could contribute to job injuries, in fact not one significant injury occurred on either job site by LIRR forces or contractor employees," he said.

Donovan did not address DiNapoli's concern that long, continuous work hours could potentially endanger the safety of railroad passengers and others.

Meanwhile, the LIRR Monday disclosed that it plans to expand its program to track some of its 6,862 employees using biometric technology to identify workers' fingerprints. The program is expected to go into effect this summer, Donovan said.

The 1,703 employees in the engineering department, those who help construct rails, bridges and train stations, will be required to sign in and out of work each day by pressing their digits on a machine.

Donovan said the 2,020 workers in the maintenance of equipment division are already required to sign in and out each day using their fingerprints. He said the expansion of the biometric time clock has been in the works for several years and is not a response to the audit.

Christopher Natale, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen Local 56, whose workers maintain LIRR signals, said his members don't like the idea of their attendance being checked with fingerprint technology.

"It's Big Brother," Natale said. "They hate it. All these electronic systems make them feel they're not trusted."

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