The MTA’s plan to reorganize its agencies, including the Long Island Rail Road, could result in the elimination of up to 2,700 jobs, some through layoffs, according to a report released Wednesday.
The full “MTA Transformation Plan,” which the agency paid management consulting firm AlixPartners $3.75 million to develop, promises an “elimination of redundancies, reduction of layers and streamlining of processes” that would result in an annual saving of between $370 million and $530 million, according to the report.
Getting to the savings “could result in a potential reduction of roughly 1,900-2,700” of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 74,000 employees, according to the report. MTA officials said they first would look to achieve the job reductions by not filling vacant positions.
The MTA Board will vote on the reorganization plan next Wednesday.
The bulk of the job cuts are expected to be nonunion, administrative positions that would be consolidated across the authority’s various agencies — such as human resources , but MTA officials did not rule out also targeting labor jobs for elimination.
A significant round of layoffs would be the first since 2010, when, in the face of a nearly $1 billion budget deficit, the MTA laid off about 1,000 workers, including about 150 at the LIRR.
Anthony Simon, general chairman of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — the LIRR’s largest union — said the talk of layoffs comes as his members “already struggle to keep up” with work, much of it done on assigned overtime.
“At a time when the agency has several projects underway to expand and even more recently announced, such as an Elmont Station to serve Belmont, it is unbelievable that a recommendation can include the possibility to reduce represented workers in our system,” Simon said. “How can recommendations be made to go down this road? We went this route of layoffs once before and it was a disaster, which we still are recovering from till today.”
The plan calls for consolidating more than 40 departments across the MTA’s agencies into six, and creating new offices that would focus on tasks like customer communications and capital projects in order to allow management at the MTA’s operating agencies, including the LIRR and the New York City Transit bus and subway system, to concentrate on their core missions of delivering safe and reliable service.
The new, leaner MTA would be better positioned to deliver improved service to customers and complete major projects on time and within budget by eliminating bureaucracy and empowering project leaders to make quicker decisions, officials said. The plan calls for the creation of several new upper management positions, including a chief transformation officer, chief engineering officer and chief operating officer.
The job reductions also would accomplish the goal of shrinking an operating budget deficit that is expected to grow to nearly a half-billion dollars next year.
“Today is the beginning of a new, modern MTA — one that delivers better service, completes projects on time and on budget, and uses its resources effectively and efficiently,” MTA chairman and CEO Patrick Foye said in a statement. “Make no mistake about it, this transformation will allow us to finally give our customers the system they deserve, and prepares us to execute on what is likely to be the biggest capital plan in MTA history.”
MTA officials said they will continue to refine the reorganization plan, including by incorporating the input of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who on Tuesday called for the proposal to be expanded to address homelessness throughout the MTA system. It also eventually will include the recommendations of a special counsel recently hired by the MTA to review time and attendance procedures and excessive overtime among some employees, including at the LIRR.
In a statement, LIRR president Phillip Eng said, “Long Island Rail Road employees are at the heart of delivering on our mission to provide exceptional service for the customers of today and the future,” but he added that railroad officials “owe it to the public we serve to use funding both appropriately and in the most cost-effective manner.”
Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who has pushed in Albany for major reforms of the MTA and the LIRR, agreed that “every option needs to be on the table,” and said he expected the job reductions would target “red tape and corporate fat,” and not critical labor jobs.
“I think the board should take seriously every recommendation and do what needs to be done to get the MTA in shape,” said Kaminsky, who noted that the report follows years of failing service at the LIRR and subway system. “You have headlines and statistics that we haven’t seen in years. It requires a major shake-up.”
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM MTA TRANSFORMATION PLAN
- Consolidate 40 departments across the MTA's agencies into six, centralized groups to allow agencies to focus on their core mission of safety, day-to-day operations and maintenance.
- Centralize functions related to the MTA's Capital Program into one office responsible for planning, developing and delivering major infrastructure projects.
- Hire a chief engineering officer who would set uniform engineering and maintenance standards across all agencies.
- Create a centralized customer communication office to streamline various communication efforts across all agencies and manage the MTA's messaging.
- Centralize operating support functions across all agencies to allow the MTA to consider its entire transportation network when making decisions about service.
- Centralize human resources functions across all agencies to reduce redundancies.
- Hire a chief operating officer/managing director that would oversee all agencies and report directly to the MTA's CEO.
- Hire a chief transformation officer who would lead the reorganization plan, and other new initiatives.
- Appoint an accessibility officer who would lead efforts to make the MTA system accessible to people with disabilities.
SOURCE: Metropolitan Transportation Authority report