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.
Since the 1990s, the transit union has been able to negotiate contracts that allow some bus operators to earn their extra pay even when they are not working. The benefit gradually has been extended to some subway, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North workers.
"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."
Union leaders stand by their contract benefit. Jim Gannon, a spokesman for the Transport Workers Union Local 100, said, "When you go on vacation, why should your money be reduced by 15 to 20 percent?"
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.
At least one person 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.
With Katharine Lieb