Long hours add up to big expenses, higher pension payouts

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Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Transportation,Kytja Weir

A just-completed investigation into Metro work hours has focused on safety.

But all the extra hours have also been expensive.

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  • Metro said last month that, in the most recent fiscal year, it paid out about $80 million in overtime because of vacancies -- well over the $48 million budget for overtime.

    In 2010, 28 Metro employees doubled their salaries with the extra work, The Washington Examiner reported in August. And one Metro police officer earning $69,559 in salary was able to take home just over $201,000 last year by working regular overtime and doubletime.

    Some overtime will always be necessary, agency officials say. Emergencies or bad weather may require workers to log more hours. Extra shifts also can help agencies cover for vacations or sickness without having to hire more workers.

    But the Tri-State Oversight Committee report on worker fatigue said Metro has 584 vacancies, at the same time it is tackling an extensive schedule to repair the system and make federally recommended safety upgrades. Some positions are hard to fill, as they require technical skills.

    Employees have worked overtime to fill the extra shifts.

    Examiner Archive
  • WMATA: Overtime a 'cost of doing business' (8-17-11)
  • Hundreds of Metro workers take home at least $40k in OT (8-17-11)
  • Examiner Local Editorial: Metro's excessive overtime puts public at risk (5-9-11)
  • Metro workers are taking home big overtime dollars (5-8-11)
  • Metro seeking answers to overtime problem (1-19-07)
  • Sometimes more qualified -- and more expensive -- workers have been filling in and earning overtime, though. Some sworn police officers guarded bus garages last year because of a lack of lower-paid security guards, The Washington Examiner reported earlier this month.

    There's also a financial incentive to work more, because many of the union pension plans pay out based on workers' highest-earning years, according to the TOC report.

    "You have to choose between your life and your money," one worker told investigators.

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    Author:

    Kytja Weir

    Staff Writer - Transportation
    The Washington Examiner