SFMTA move curbs sick calls

Doctor’s notes appear to be the antidote for Muni operators calling in sick to work.

Since management required drivers to provide physician documentation when calling in sick, the daily rate of Muni operators missing work due to ailments has fallen by 42 percent.

Following rumors of organized sickout days by workers, management for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni, made it mandatory that any sick day taken between Sept. 8 and Oct. 15 be accompanied by a note from a doctor.

In the 15 months prior to that, an average of 7.6 percent of Muni’s operators called in sick on a daily basis, according to agency documents. In the 2½ weeks since, that daily rate has dropped to 4.4 percent, a 42 percent reduction.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd — who helped place a measure on the November ballot to change specific work rules for operators — called management’s decision a “step in the right direction.”

“This shows management has become more efficient in maintaining a proper level of service for Muni customers,” Elsbernd said. He said that if his measure — Proposition G — passes, he would like the practice to become permanent.

Officials from the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents 2,200 Muni operators, did not return calls for comment.

John Haley, director of transit operations at the SFMTA, said enforcing sick-day documentation is one way to improve service on Muni. In August, increased oversight for sick-day scheduling also contributed to the decrease in absences, Haley said. “We never had a clear-cut and defined policy for sick-day leave,” he said.

Earlier this month, anonymous fliers circulated urging Muni operators to stage sickout days, something prohibited in their contract. Local 250-A leadership condemned the fliers, but the union has been at odds with management on issues including changes to standby scheduling, work hours and recent service restorations.

On Tuesday, several cable car operators, all members of Local 250-A, opted to boycott the SFMTA’s annual bell-ringing contest.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Muni no-shows

7.62 Average daily percentage of sick Muni operators, May 1, 2009, to Sept. 7, 2010
4.42 Average daily percentage of sick Muni operators, Sept. 8 to 25*
72 Percentage reduction in daily rate of sick Muni operators
2,200 Total Muni operators

* Missing one day of data

Source: SFMTA

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