A shortage of Muni operators caused widespread delays on Muni lines across San Francisco. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

There are reasons why there’s a shortage of Muni operators

Yes, it’s true, there is a shortage of Muni operators, but this is not the fault of the operators.

If we look at some of the reasons why there are so many “not out” lines within the system, we can begin to understand the basic reasons why there is a shortage of operators.

First off, for newly employed operators, their reality starts after they pass their training course and they receive their first paycheck. This is because the newly hired operators only make 63 percent of the hourly máximum rate of pay. This means that when it’s time to pay the rent, they are stuck with just 63 percent of what operators at máximum pay are earning.

SEE RELATED: Muni suffering major citywide service gaps due to operator shortage

Secondly, when they earn their first paycheck after complete their training course, operators are stuck at that 63 percent for an entire year before moving up to their second level of pay.

Third, it used to take a newly hired operator 18 months to reach top pay, but now it takes a newly hired operator 48 months to reach the maximum rate of pay.

Fourth, many of the newly hired operators are only hired part-time, even though, in my opinión, full-time runs should be filled first.

Keep in mind that these four points menitoned above pertain specifically for newly hired operators. However, there are a plethora of other on-the-job issues that also cause a shortage of operators, but once again, the shortage is no the fault of the operators.

Some of the other issues that cause a shortage of are:

1. The notion that the operator is always wrong.

2. The lack of safety and security for the operators.

3. The tremendous decline in the morale of the operators.

A small example in regard to No. 1: There have been some situations where buses are stopped at a bus zone servicing the stop and the bus gets rear-ended or there is a hit-and-run accident and the operator gets accused of causing that incident and ultimately gets charged and disciplined, even though often times the police report indicate that the operator was not at fault, the witnesses indicate that the operator was not at fault, and even the cameras on the bus clearly indicate that the operator was not at fault, but lo and behold, somehow the operator receives some form of disciplinary action.

In regard to my second point above: When dealing with the public on a daily basis, too many of our operators end up being harassed, threatened and assaulted. I personally know of a few operators who were physically assaulted, and when they returned to work they were disciplined. It’s very sad after spending weeks in the hospital and you return to work only to be received with a letter of suspensión or some type of disciplinary action instead of being asked a decent question like “How are you feeling?” or “Welcome back, I’m glad you’re doing better.”

These examples bring me to my third point, which is the level of morale. With these issues and many similar others, it causes a tremendous lack of morale among the operators who sometimes end up saying, “Forget this…why bother…the agency doesn’t care…I’m not even gonna try…etc.”

In conclusion, the reason there’s a shortage of operators does not have one answer. As you just read, there are a plethora of reasons.

Furthermore, there is notone big solution that will fix the problem, but rather many small solutions that will end up improving the current situation.

For the moment, the important thing to try and grasp is that we are working on trying to bring forth many small changes to the many different problems that we are facing and keep in mind that OVERSET FOLLOWS:the shortage is NOT the fault of the Operators.

Roger Marenco is president of Transport Workers Union Local 250A.

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