Metro has working overtime to make safety improvements to the aging system by putting crews to work on weekends and holidays. But now, the amount of overtime some of its employees are earning is raising eyebrows.
According to the Washington Examiner, the top 10 overtime earners working for Metro work the equivalent of another full-time job. And they are making almost another salary for all that extra work.
The top employee on the OT list, the Examiner reports, is a construction inspector who has made more than $32,000 in overtime in just the first two months of this year. That works out to 16-hour days, every day, including weekends and holidays. According to the Examiner, that inspector’s base pay is about $75,000, meaning the person has worked twice as much overtime as regular hours in those two months.
But he wasn’t the only one racking up five-figure overtime payments to start off the New Year. At least nine other Metro employees worked 40 hours or more of overtime per week, according to agency data obtained by the Examiner. Four are construction inspectors, four are supervisors of track work, one is a mechanic who the Examiner says is responsible for checking electrical issues on the system, and one is a transit police officer.
In January, Metro said it was going to perform extensive work on the Metrorail system in 2011.
“This is the most aggressive program of work Metro has taken since the system was built,” Metro GM Richard Sarles said at the time.
And the work won't be finished any time soon. Metro has a six-year, $5 billion Capital Improvement Program that is focused on safety and maintenance.
In fiscal year 2012, that will include projects such as replacing escalators, retrofitting track, replacing track circuitry and rehabilitating 12 Metrorail stations.
With the increase in work to improve safety, Metro has also focused on making sure train operators get enough rest between shifts. But now the committee that oversees Metro says the overtime numbers make them question safety of employees elsewhere in the system.
“In general, we want them to be staffing the system with sufficient workers so that they don’t have to rely too heavily on overtime for any particular position to allow for appropriate rest and time off,” Chairman Matt Bassett of the Tri-State Oversight Committee told the Examiner.
Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told the Examiner that they are working to fill vacancies, but in the meantime, employees have had to work longer hours, and are therefore getting bigger paychecks.
"We are ramping up the largest capital improvement program since Metrorail's original construction," Farbstein said in an email to the Examiner. "Employees are working days, nights, weekends and holidays on equipment and infrastructure that is being rehabilitated to support a safer, more reliable system."
The other issue of course is the transit system’s budget. The Metro board is trying to reduce a huge budget gap, but according to a report by the Examiner in March, Metro has already run through its entire $48 million overtime budget.