A two-year fight over wages lost by no-show city workers in the monster snowstorm of 2010 has ended with a victory for the city.
An arbitrator has ruled that workers who didn’t make it to the job after the crippling storm were legitimately docked vacation or personal days for being missing in action.
Disabled workers and those who showed up at shuttered offices didn’t lose any pay days.
One official estimated the ruling could affect 125,000 city employees and 60,000 more in related government entities such as City University. It could serve as a precedent for workers similarly stranded during Hurricane Sandy who are demanding to get paid their regular wages.
The official estimated that arbitrator Deborah Gaines’ decision could ultimately save the city tens of millions of dollars.
The storm that paralyzed the city after Christmas 2010 led to a showdown between the Bloomberg administration, which ordered agencies to remove time from the annual leave balances of absent employees, and the union that represents most of them.
District Council 37 complained in a formal grievance that its members couldn’t get to their jobs because the subways and buses had been knocked out.
City officials conceded that employees who hadn’t come in during power failures were paid in the past — but only because “the workplaces themselves would not be able to function,” which wasn’t the situation in the transit outage, they said.
Gaines’ ruling focused on narrow language in the DC 37 contract that spells out the rights of employees who are to be excused for being late to work because of mass-transit problems. There’s no discussion of what happens if they’re absent.
“Section 16 (h) specifically provides that ‘lateness’ caused ‘by a major failure of public transportation’ shall be excused,” she wrote. “The evidence fails to establish that this language is meant to include absence.”
Gaines noted, “The parties are assumed to have understood this difference in meaning when they drafted the agreement.”
DC 37 director Lillian Roberts wouldn’t address the unfavorable part of the finding, saying only that she looks forward to working with the city on a contingency plan for the future.
Source: NY Post