According to a copy of the final report, Metro employees in safety-critical jobs work a “de facto” 16-hour day maximum, and there are no limits on the number of consecutive days an employee works.
The study analyzed a 28-day sample of Metrorail employees in the operations and maintenance departments. The employees’ identities were kept confidential.
One employee in Metro’s automated train control division said he was “constantly fixing mistakes” made by his colleagues and “attributed the poor work quality,” in part, to fatigue.
Dan Stessel, Metro’s chief spokesman, wrote Friday in an e-mail that the report will be discussed at Thursday’s safety and security committee meeting but that changes could still be made. “We will defer comment until the final report is presented to the committee,” Stessel wrote.
Matt Bassett, TOC chairman, declined to comment until he makes his presentation to the board.
The study team met with Metro supervisors, train operators, controllers, rail car and electrical power systems maintenance personnel, automatic train control and track maintenance technicians and elevator and escalator mechanics. The report said Metro had 2,662 safety-critical positions with 212 vacancies, at the time of the study.
Pressure to work overtime
Two reasons employees work long hours, the study found, is that workers want to earn overtime and Metro needs to quickly fix the deteriorating rail system.
Employees in several departments reported working overtime, in part, to boost their retirement benefits, which are based on their top three highest-producing years. Some said they felt pressure to do work shifts because of retirements, injuries, vacancies or vacations in their departments and a push to meet the needs of Metro’s aggressive $5 billion capital improvement plan, which involves major track work on weekends.
In two cases, an employee in the heavy equipment department worked 112 hours in one week — or 16-hour shifts for seven days in a row, according to the study. One manager in the track and structure division said his crew had worked the “last 22 weekends in a row.”
More than a quarter of all shifts in the transit system’s power department were 16 hours. As of Sept. 30, the report said, the department had 259 employees with 11 vacancies.
Although rail operators were the “least likely of all job categories analyzed to work a 16-hour day,” one in 22 shifts lasted more than 14 hours, according to the report. In some isolated cases, train operators worked more than 80 hours a week, including one who worked 95 hours in July.