SFMTA OT

For the 2011-12 fiscal year, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency employees made more than $100,000 in overtime alone and plans are now in the works to hire more employees for the positions that had thousands of logged overtime hours. Photo by Virginia Tieman / Xpress

Doubling one’s salary in overtime hours is a dream for some — but for a few San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency workers, it is a reality.

According to the San Francisco Controller’s Office, which oversees the city’s accounting and auditing, a handful of SFMTA employees made more than $100,000 in overtime alone. One SFMTA electronic maintenance technician more than doubled their $106,000 base salary by working more than 1,900 overtime hours — earning $163,795 for overtime.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose sees overtime as a necessity for the transit agency to thrive.

“For a transit agency of this size, overtime is sometimes needed to function,” Rose said.

Though the transit agency may be giving generous overtime, it comes at a cost. The Annual Overtime Report, released Jan. 3, found that city departments such as SFMTA, the Fire Department, and the Police Department, caused the city to go $18 million over budget for the distribution of overtime in the 2011-12 fiscal year. SFMTA topped the list for the department that overspent the most, going 60 percent over budget for overtime spending.

SFMTA employees aren’t the only city workers topping the list for large amounts of overtime. In the Annual Overtime Report, it was found that 863 city workers exceeded overtime limits.

SFMTA came in first place with 510 workers breaking the administrative code that dictates city employees cannot work more than 25 percent of their scheduled hours as overtime. The San Francisco Fire Department came in second with 292 employees exceeding overtime limits.

SFFD public information officer, Mindy Talmadge, finds that more employees are forced to work overtime in the fire department due to a large influx of retiring workers.

“Coupled with numerous retirements, the mayors over the last several years have required all city departments, including the fire department, to cut their budgets in the face of the economic downturn,” Talmadge said. “Nearly 90 percent of the fire department budget is spent on salaries so we were not able to hire new firefighters to replace those that retired at a fast enough pace to cut the amount of necessary overtime.”

According to Rose, SFMTA plans on hiring more employees for the positions that had thousands of overtime hours logged in.

“To reduce the amount of overtime working and to manage the budget, SFMTA is hiring additional workers,” Rose said. “For example, SFMTA is hiring workers for the same position for the individual that made over $100,000 in overtime rather than sitting at a point.”

Joyce Gu, an 18-year-old San Francisco resident, rides Muni daily. She believes that hiring more employees is the right thing to do — as long as there is improvement within the transit agency.

“It’s wrong to put all the work on one person, and if there were more people getting the chance to work, maybe Muni would run better,” Gu said. “Right now Muni isn’t running well and it would be nice to have better service.”

Though SFFD does not have an exact plan to offset overtime, the department has made the commitment to hire more employees and prevent the impact of many employees going into retirement at the same time.

Talmadge sees high overtime hours as an indicator that something may need to change for the San Francisco city departments that landed on the Annual Overtime Report — such as SFMTA and SFFD.

“There is a point when overtime hiring becomes counterintuitive,” Talmadge said. “There is no hard-fast number because there are so many variables, but when a Department gets to the point of requiring employees to work mandatory overtime it is a good indicator that it would be a good time to start the hiring process.”

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Erin Dage

Erin Dage