By Philip Newman
Some 51 bus drivers were spat on while on duty last year and each one took an average of two months off with pay to recover from the attack, MTA records indicate.
It is all legal because the Metropolitan Transportation Authority-Transit Workers Union contract provides generous time off with pay for drivers “assaulted” while on the job.
MTA records showed that an additional 32 spat-on drivers took no time off, but one stayed home for 191 days.
The union contract provides that MTA employees who are assaulted can take as long as two years off at full pay but must have a witness that the attack occurred and a doctor’s confirmation that the assault caused trauma for the victim.
Joseph Smith, president of the MTA Department of Buses, said, “you have to look at every case individually. If someone spits on your pants, it’s a lot different from being spat on in your face.”
But Smith said the MTA might reconsider whether the term “assault” properly includes spitting.
One problem raised by the spitting records is that when MTA employees stay home for whatever reason, the job has to be filled by overtime, which eats up tens of millions of dollars at the financially strapped agency.
A lively discussion followed at the meeting of the MTA Transit Committee Monday.
MTA board member Nancy Shevell, a trucking company magnate and frequent companion of former Beatle Paul McCartney, suggested drivers could “go home, take a shower and a nap and take the rest of the day off and maybe the next day.”
John Samuelsen, president of Local 101 of the Transport Workers Union, said, “Nancy Shevell will never have anyone spit in her face. It would be too hard to get to her as she is riding down Fifth Avenue in her limousine.”
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 718-260-4536.