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Union calls on MTA to slash its own cost-cutting Transformation Team

In a letter, the International Association of Sheet

In a letter, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers union is calling on the MTA to dismantle its Transformation Team, which was empaneled last year with the goal of cutting $1.6 billion in internal costs. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority should look to cut costs by getting rid of a team of workers whose job it is to find ways to cut costs, according to the head of the LIRR’s largest union.

In a letter to MTA chairman Patrick Foye obtained by Newsday, Anthony Simon, general chairman of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, is calling on the agency to "dismantle" its Transformation Team, which was empaneled last year with the goal of cutting $1.6 billion in internal costs, largely through consolidating some departments.

Because most of those savings already have been realized, Simon wrote that "there is no need for millions of dollars to be spent on any other consultants, salaries and expenses" related to the transformation plan, Simon wrote in the letter dated Nov. 19.

In a statement, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the agency's Transformation Team is "leading the consolidation of the agency to improve efficiency" and is "permanently and aggressively cutting costs internally to save taxpayer dollars."

The letter comes as the MTA considers laying off 9,000 workers because of its pandemic-related budget deficit, including nearly 1,000 from the Long Island Rail Road. To avoid the job reductions, the authority has asked for a $12 billion rescue in Congress’ next COVID-19 stimulus package.

Simon, whose union represents about half of the LIRR's union workers, said in his letter that, if a federal bail out does not come through, "The alternative should not fall on the backs of labor." He called on the MTA to target nonunion administrators who have been working from home during the pandemic before going after union jobs.

"Any expectation of concessions from the unions for cost savings before major steps are taken within management is insulting to our essential workforce," Simon wrote. "Nothing else will close the gap."

The MTA last year hired Anthony McCord to the newly created position of chief transformation officer, with an annual salary of $325,000, to lead the initiative to streamline the MTA, including by eliminating 2,700 jobs. But much of the work of McCord’s Transformation Team was put on hold because of the pandemic.

In September, McCord announced that the agency expected to reach the job reduction target without layoffs because of an unexpectedly high attrition rate during the pandemic. The MTA also found $540 million in other savings, including by reducing the use of outside consultants and cutting back on overtime.

Despite the MTA finding other ways of cutting, McCord, in September, emphasized the importance of his team’s work going forward.

"As the MTA moves into a critical juncture of its existence, they will allow us to maintain functional services at a much lower cost," McCord said. "Every dollar we save here is a dollar that can be used toward service."

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