Metro takes legal action to “implement an anti-fatigue policy”

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Photo by PoPville flickr user slatifolia

From WMATA:

“WMATA filed suit in U.S. District Court today to allow the Authority to implement an anti-fatigue policy designed to prevent bus and train operators, and other safety-critical employees from working seven-consecutive days.

Following a comprehensive fatigue management study in 2013, Metro created the first Fatigue Risk Management Policy in the transit industry for Metro employees in safety-critical positions, including train and bus operators. The policy provides that no employee perform work on more than six-consecutive days, and that any employee working six-consecutive days receive at least 24-hours off duty before returning to work.

“Metro must be in a position to enforce safety policies for its employees,” said General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld. “A strong safety culture means that we need to be able to protect employees and passengers based on Board approved policies that are informed by science and best practices.”

Metro’s current union agreement stipulates how overtime is awarded without regard to potential fatigue situations. Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with ATU Local 689, work on a day off is paid at time-and-a-half on the first day off and double time for the second day off – which is the seventh-day of work.

While Metro’s new Chief Safety Officer is reviewing safety policies related to preventing fatigue, Metro management has been phasing out the assignment of seventh-day work. To honor the spirit of the CBA, the agency is paying certain employees not to work on their seventh day, eliminating any adverse financial impacts to workers under the current agreement. Under this scenario, the next eligible employee would get the work. Despite this, Local 689 filed a grievance and took the matter to arbitration in 2016. In a split decision, arbitrators decided that the CBA superseded the fatigue policy, which became, in effect, unenforceable.”

10 Comment

  • Wouldn’t the amount of hours an employee works on any given day — and how many hours of rest the employee gets between one day’s shift and the next — make more of a difference to an employee’s alertness level than whether the employee works seven days in a row??

    • HaileUnlikely

      Short answer: probably. Longer answer: acute and chronic sleep deprivation are both very important factors to consider when assessing a person’s “fitness for duty” so to speak, in the context of a safety-critical job such as operating a transit vehicle. We often see individuals, employers, regulators, etc., focusing only on the former (acute sleep deprivation) while ignoring the latter. This basically does the reverse. Although I don’t know the specifics, I’m sure WMATA already has some rules in place about max hours worked per shift and time between shifts; this can’t be their only fatigue-related rule (I sure as hell hope it isn’t; and I’m reasonably confident that it isn’t). The really hard part is that an employer’s influence over what their employers do outside of work is not as strong as one might like in the context of making sure employees with safety-critical roles come to work well-rested.

  • so basically, SafeTrack is going to take much longer than has been announced.

  • Well that’s awfully common-sense of them.

  • HaileUnlikely

    p.s. I support the right to unionize in general and believe that unions are critical to protecting the rights of workers, but I find it sad and f*cked up that the union is attempting to block metro from implementing fatigue-management regulations for transit vehicle operators. BS like this gives unions a bad name.

  • My reading of this situation is that Metro is using the cover of fatigue mitigation to close a loophole that the union was using to help its member truly maximize their overtime pay. Remember, the average Metro employee’s salary is somewhere in the $84,000-range, but that number does NOT include substantial overtime pay. The union seems to have cleverly engineered the rules to maximize overtime pay at virtually every turn. Go for it, Paul W. Please get these union clowns in check.

    • Isn’t retirement pay also determined based on final years earnings, inclusive of overtime?

      • Yes. This is common among unions and even some non-union pension-eligible workers around the country in all types of trades. Usually its some formula derived from the last 3 years or 5 years of total cash compensation.

    • yep! simply google the massive overtime bill(s) the District has had to pay for cops and firefighters pulling the same stunt. in one case a cop with a salary in the ‘range’ you cite got paid an additional $179,000 tripling his/her salary.