transit

MTA Rethinking Plan to Slash 2,700 Transit Agency Jobs

An MTA conductor checks the doors of an A train at the Nostrand Avenue station, March 19, 2020.
An MTA conductor checks the doors of an A train at the Nostrand Avenue station, March 19, 2020. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

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The MTA’s so-called Transformation Plan — which requires the transit agency to cut up to 2,700 jobs by the end of the year — may be in for a makeover of its own, due to the coronavirus crisis.

Reeling from plunging ridership stemming from the global pandemic, the MTA is seeking a $4 billion federal bailout and taking a fresh look at the reorganization blueprint presented last year by the AlixPartners consulting firm, officials said Thursday.

“The situation is dynamic right now as a result of the pandemic and we’re solely focused on employee and customer health and having sufficient numbers of employees to run the system,” MTA Chair Patrick Foye said in an address to workers, a recording of which was viewed by THE CITY.

MTA Chair Patrick Foye
MTA Chair Patrick Foye Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

“Transformation will proceed on a timeline that prioritizes getting through the pandemic and the liquidity crisis it has started across the country, including here at the MTA,” he added.

Abbey Collins, an agency spokesperson, said “transformation priorities” will be reviewed within the context of the global health crisis.

“The coronavirus is impacting all aspects of the MTA, including the Transformation Plan, which we are fully committed to enacting,” Collins told THE CITY.

The state legislature directed the MTA in 2019 to come up with an organizational restructuring plan.

A ‘Reduction in Force’

Last month, Anthony McCord, the agency’s new chief transformation officer, said the plan’s call for a “reduction in force” (RIF) is designed to “transform the MTA to become the center of excellence worldwide in mass transportation.”

“We will conduct the RIF with sensitivity and respect for our employees,” McCord said at the Feb. 26 MTA board meeting, adding that the cuts would have a “limited direct on service.”

But Tony Utano, the head of Transport Workers Union Local 100, told THE CITY Wednesday night that the MTA “should throw the AlixPartners report in the garbage bag,” noting how transit employees have kept essential workers moving when most New Yorkers are staying home.

“All the top is trying to do is trying to figure out how to get rid of the bottom — when the bottom is the one doing the work,” Utano told THE CITY.

The reduction is supposed to include 700 operations positions, which Collins said the MTA believes can all be achieved through attrition. The agency has said the majority of the cuts would be in white-collar positions at an organization with about 70,000 employees.

‘Mind-Boggling’ Cuts Eyed

Vincent Tessitore, a labor representative on the MTA board, called the proposed operations slashing “mind-boggling,” and said it would hurt both workers and riders.

“We don’t want to have a situation where service deteriorates,” said Rachael Fauss, a research analyst with Reinvent Albany, a government watchdog group. “This is going to be dependent on what type of federal rescue package the MTA receives.”

Before the onset of coronavirus, the MTA had forecast that the agency needs to save $1.6 billion between now and 2023. MTA board member Neal Zuckerman told THE CITY the Transformation Plan remains “way necessary” to find “more efficiency and the best, effective way to run railroads.”

“But it will clearly be insufficient if this disruption becomes even worse,” he said of the plan.

TWU Local 100 last week took out a full-page ad in the Daily News praising workers for their response to the coronavirus crisis. The ad called McCord “the MTA’s new imported hatchet man” and said that if agency chiefs are still thinking about layoffs, “they should have their heads examined.”

The union also has been pressing the MTA to line up testing for transit workers who may be “presumptively positive” for coronavirus.

“Before they slash any transit worker jobs, they should look at what we’re doing,” Utano said.

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