Muni workers back on the job after sickout

Muni dispatchers, inspectors and street supervisors are back to work Friday after more than 50 called in sick Thursday morning as part of an impromptu sickout. Bus and light-rail passengers did not experience any interrupted service, a Muni spokesperson said.

Muni lines were “not affected” and there were no major delays or backups despite the unexpected absences, Muni spokesperson Maggie Lynch said.

The employees who called in sick are part of the Transport Workers Union Local 200, an approximately 260-member organization in the midst of a contract dispute with the MTA.

“Some of them are sick, and some of them are sick and tired,” said Glenda Lavigne, the union president, noting that it was not an organized effort. Lavigne called in sick because she had a biopsy scheduled, she said.

The contract, handed down by an arbitrator last summer after negotiations failed, draws out a 5.75 percent wage increase over the next two years. The union, however, wants “some money up front in the contract,” said Lavigne. Union negotiators had asked for a 7 percent increase.

The sickout comes after the Transit Effectiveness Project, an 18-month study of the agency done by Muni and the City Controller’s Office, recently revealed that the underemployment of “frontline management” positions such as street supervisors was a large obstacle to solving the system’s reliability issues. Muni has 48 street supervisors; three years ago, it had 100.

Most of the workers who called in sick Thursday are dispatchers, operations inspectors and street supervisors — employees who help the system run smoothly and on time by being on the streets at key locations in The City.

Lynch said Muni managers filled in for the absences and worked 12-hour shifts. The agency also asked current workers who may have formerly worked in the needed positions to help develop service plans for today. She added that Muni will be asking for doctors’ certificates from every employee out Thursday.

Muni’s charter and the collective-bargaining agreement with the union prohibit any willful failures to report for duty, she said.

Muni Executive Director Nathaniel Ford has sent a letter to the union and the sick employees “letting them know that it’s the obligation of the collective-bargaining agreement not to initiate or engage” in any work slowdown, stoppage or absenteeism, Lynch said.

As for any sicknesses today or in the near future, Lavigne said, “I hope not.”

The two sides met Thursday afternoon, but the results of that meeting were unknown as of press time.

dsmith@examiner.com

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