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MTA should maintain efficiency by not laying off employees

An open letter to Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Jay Walder:

I understand the MTA is planning to lay off more than 500 employees in response to its current financial problems. I urge you to use alternative means to get through this challenging period, as there are other ways to balance a budget than resorting to layoffs.

As you know, the state Legislature is also trying to find ways to address the state’s budget deficit, but eliminating people’s livelihoods should not be among them. Last year, the governor proposed laying off 8,900 state employees to save the state money, but he withdrew this harsh measure and found other ways to find savings. I am confident the MTA, under your leadership, can do the same.

Layoffs are a drastic response that rip apart the security of affected employees and their families. Job losses also have a direct ripple effect on the local economy and government by taking away the ability of workers to support local businesses, providing tax revenues and forcing many onto public assistance.

Reducing the MTA’s workforce will also affect the security and sense of security for the thousands who ride the subways regularly and feel safe revisiting New York City since Sept. 11, 2001. Station agents are the key personnel who help riders in the event of an emergency. Security cameras and buzzers for passengers in distress are an unacceptable substitute in a place like New York City, where a crime or platform accident can occur in a second.

As the country’s largest urban transportation system, the MTA has built an excellent reputation of responding to the needs of subway riders and making the city easy to get around in by mass transit. That reputation is due to the dedication and quality performance of MTA employees.

Station agents can also help curb the loss of $27 million in revenues from turnstile jumping, as reported in a recent MTA audit. The MTA’s workforce is one of its strongest assets which should be maintained, not reduced, while the MTA weathers this financial period.

I urge you to consider the alternatives to layoffs that are available to the MTA, including using stimulus funds for its operations from the American Recovery and Revitalization Act. It is my understanding that new legislation is being considered by Congress that would provide the MTA with significant new operating moneys.

Finally, I recommend you examine the use of costly outside contractors. The Legislature and governor recently approved a similar requirement for state agencies, which is expected to save jobs as well as money.

The MTA’s plans to continue its construction projects says to me you expect to expand MTA operations well into the future. New York City’s mass transit system provides a vital public service that should not be compromised for the current fiscal period by eliminating the individuals who make MTA operations run so effectively for all of us.

I would be happy to meet with you to discuss any of these alternatives.

George Onorato

Chairman

State Senate Labor Committee

Astoria

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