Why does NJ Transit have ‘manpower shortages’? Union rules letting them stay home
(Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media NJ)
NEWARK — NJ Transit customers on Tuesday continued to be greeted with a new reason for canceled trains: manpower shortages.
That was the reason given for the cancellation of almost a dozen trains on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast, Morris & Essex, Bergen and Main lines during Monday's morning and afternoon rushes, according to tweets from NJ Transit. The Princeton Shuttle, known as the "Dinky," was also canceled because of a crew shortage.
Other trains were canceled or delayed on Monday for unspecified "operational issues."
"No engineer" was cited in a tweet by NJ Transit on Tuesday morning as the reason why the Princeton Shuttle remained suspended. A later tweet also blamed a scheduled Amtrak power outage.
North Jersey Coast Line train 3503 out of New York Penn Station was also canceled for a second day due to the manpower shortage. Train 3502 from South Amboy at 7:05 a.m. was also canceled.
There were also about a dozen bus runs canceled on Tuesday morning due to "operational issues"
Sources at NJ Transit, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the matter, told New Jersey 101.5 the shortages are the result of members of NJ Transit's unions exercising their rights to bump junior employees from work assignments.
NJ Transit implemented a summer schedule, which is in effect during Amtrak's infrastructure rehabilitation at Penn Station between July 10 and Sep. 1. The source said that under the rules of the union, crew members choose their assignments. If a crew member takes an assignment but it's already assigned to someone else, the junior member is bumped. The junior member then has 48 hours to be assigned elsewhere. However, that individual also has the right to simply take two days off.
It is not considered to be an organized effort, but rather individual employees exercising their rights and choosing to stay home.
A caller identifying himself to New Jersey 101.5's Bill Spadea as an engineer named Bill from Westhampton said that the issue is over working on days off. The call said that engineers are choosing to stay home on their scheduled day off and that Federal Railway Administration rules prohibit working seven days.
"There's a lot of things going on. You have the sleep apnea, we have guys that are retired, we lost guys to other railroads in the area because there's not a lot of job security," the caller said .
James Brown, general chairman of the New Jersey Chapter of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, and Steve Burket, General Chairman of SMART Local 60, have not yet returned messages.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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