Why is the MTA’s payroll now costing $1.37B?

City drivers are preparing for congestion-pricing tolls to start on June 15. The MTA’s payroll reached a staggering $7.8 billion, with overtime expenses hitting a new record high of $1.37 billion last year, a 6% increase since 2022. This poses a risk that the congestion-pricing revenue will be consumed by labor costs instead of funding capital spending.

Overtime abuse is primarily facilitated by the agency’s labor contracts, particularly at the LIRR. MTA chief Janno Lieber requires political support, especially from Governor Hochul, to negotiate work-rule changes to address this issue.

724 MTA workers earned over $100,000 in overtime in the past year. LIRR workers earned the most per-employee overtime, averaging $26,028 in 2023.

Total payroll costs increased by $663 million, exceeding inflation at most of the MTA’s eight subsidiaries. Recommendations to reduce overtime issued in a 2019 report have mostly been disregarded.

  • A cost-benefit analysis is recommended for paying overtime versus hiring new employees to avoid potential worker outrage.
  • Monitoring high earners to limit overtime and establishing caps in labor contracts is advised.
  • Seeking work-rule changes to avoid paying overtime for non-working shifts is crucial.

A Post investigation in 2019 revealed that inefficiencies at the LIRR cost the MTA at least $200 million annually. An MTA inspector general investigation highlighted absurd labor agreements at the LIRR, such as mandatory overtime for senior track employees even if it leads to excessive consecutive hours worked.

The MTA’s escalating overtime costs have been scrutinized by the Post and the Empire Center, but little has changed. Detailed overtime reports are no longer released for independent analysis.

Lieber must confront the unions, but he requires Hochul’s support to handle potential strike threats. Hochul has a strong relationship with organized labor, making it challenging for her to demand reforms, even at the LIRR.

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