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Contract perk allows transit workers to earn OT on vacation

For some MTA workers, relaxing on the beach comes with a delicious perk: overtime.

The agency is spending $34 million this year on “phantom” overtime paid to workers on vacation, out sick or on holiday, according to documents obtained by amNewYork. Workers on the bus division alone are benefiting from a $22 million windfall this year, MTA estimates show.

"That’s horrible,” said rider Vinny Basdeo, 33, of Queens. “I have to work extra to earn overtime pay, and it should be the same for bus drivers.”

The MTA is making an issue of the sweet deal as it scrambles to close a more than $800 million deficit without resorting to additional service cuts or a fare increase beyond 7.5 percent in January.

“We are looking to control unnecessary overtime as part of overhauling how the MTA does business,” agency spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.

Transit workers typically earn time and a half after eight hours of work in a day. Nearly 1,300 bus operators always work more than eight hours because they cover the morning and afternoon shifts on a route, with a gap in the middle of several hours. Additionally, some train operators earn overtime daily because their routes take more than eight hours to navigate.

Since the 1990s, the transit union was able to negotiate contracts that allowed some bus operators to earn their extra pay even when they are not working. The benefit has gradually extended to some subway, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North workers.

Union leaders stand by their contract benefit.

“When you go on vacation, why should your money be reduced by 15 to 20 percent?” said Jim Gannon, a spokesman for the Transport Workers Union Local 100.

At least one New Yorker sided with the union.

“Honestly with all the stuff they put up with, I think it’s reasonable,” said Dani Weishoff, 19, of the Upper East Side.

Katharine Lieb contributed to this story.

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What $34 million could mean to the MTA:

- Keep 202 station agents: $17.4 million

- Bring back the V train. $4 million

- Resurrect the W train. $3.4 million

- Run more frequent service on seven subway lines during off-peak hours. $3.1 million

- Save six express bus routes: $2.7 million

- Hire back 25 cleaners: $1.6 million

- Keep the G running 13 more stops into Queens. $1.5 million

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