Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Management and Control of Employee Overtime Costs

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) provides public transportation in and around the New York City metropolitan area. It employs more than 71,000 workers at an annual cost of about $4.6 billion. We examined whether the MTA had effectively managed and controlled its overtime costs, and found that it had not. Rather, there had been a culture of acceptance among MTA managers regarding overtime, and no real efforts were made to make significant changes in longstanding practices that resulted in routine, and often unnecessary, overtime. As a result, overtime had become the rule rather than the exception for many of the MTA’s employees, and the MTA’s already high overtime costs continued to escalate.

Between 2005 and 2009, the MTA’s annual overtime costs increased from $468 million to $590 million, an increase of 32 percent. We found that many of the MTA’s employees were being paid significant amounts of overtime, as their annual overtime pay was approaching, and in some cases exceeding, their annual salaries. For example, in 2009, there were 3,269 employees whose total overtime pay for the year equaled at least 50 percent of their annual salaries, including 145 whose total overtime pay exceeded their annual salaries. When we examined why the employees at four of the MTA’s seven constituent agencies were working such significant amounts of overtime, and whether the overtime was, in fact, necessary, we found indications that the overtime often was not necessary.

For example, routine track maintenance work was often performed by workers on overtime, because the workers’ regular work shifts coincided with peak service periods when the tracks were not available for routine maintenance. We also found that many of the employees working overtime had no valid justification for doing so, and some may not have worked all the overtime hours claimed. If corrective actions were taken to eliminate the unnecessary overtime identified by our audit, we estimate the MTA could save more than $56 million a year in overtime costs. We recommended MTA officials consider adopting some of the best practices of other public transportation authorities that have been able to control their overtime costs.

For a complete copy of Report 2009-S-88 click here.