Wednesday, January 9, 2013

TriMet's GM caught with his pants down

By the Oregonian - no less. I have been so dismissive of the Oregonian's journalism efforts that I mistakenly rolled on by the results of their eight month investigation of TriMet. Real journalistic effort by Joesph Rose. [TriMet boss says The Oregonian's investigation reveals 'glaring' shortcomings at transit agency and TriMet overtime: 'Exhaustion has become part of the culture' at transit agency.].

Where journalism pays off - if it were not for the Oregonian's investigation business would be as usual. In response to the exposure of  his management failures placing the public in grave danger - this general manager attempts in his Neil's Notes to absolve himself and TriMet management of any responsibility for TriMet's public safety problems.

Inconceivably, or maybe not, he shifts the blame to the transit operators. It is their fault because when asked to work overtime and make a lot of extra money they accept. It is their fault that they fail to turn themselves in for being fatigued on the job (after working 18, 19, 20 hours or more on the job in 24 hours)." It is their fault that management doesn't manage.

Now with the exposure of disreputable management - Neil is all about "we" and "our." "Yesterday's Oregonian article should find us all reflecting on how we run our business, and without blame or fault, asking ourselves hard questions about how we can improve." Of course there is fault and blame and it rests right on the front doorsteps of TriMet management. This is not a worker problem nor an union issue.

And throughout Neil's Notes he attempts to imply, easy to infer, that the issue is not seen the same way by TriMet management. The GM: "Seen through the eyes of the Oregonian reporter, the current policy's shortcomings are glaring." But maybe not so glaring as seen through Neil's eyes? And of course Neil's management had planned all along to make changes in the service policy that governs overtime: "Changing this policy has been on our list of issues to work through with the ATU – but sadly remains undone."

It is incomprehensible that TriMet management was in the dark on the obvious public safety issues when drivers are allowed or required to work continuous overtime.  But Neil is not in a hurry and sees the issue of public safety as a union bargaining item.

Neil's Notes: "That's why I've asked that this [service] policy move to the 'A' list in our contract negotiations with the ATU [...]. I hope we can work this issue through quickly and have asked our contract negotiations team to relaunch that effort – but I tell you in any case it will not fall off my list as we negotiate or arbitrate the next contract."

WTF.  The need for overtime of the magnitude seen in the Oregonian investigation is not an union issue. Noah Heller has it correct: "Public safety should be non-negotiable. It shouldn't be just a line item in collective bargaining." [Sign his on-line petition.]

It is not just inept management - it is malfeasance.  This malfeasance may even be responsible for the deaths of two pedestrians hit by a bus. Alluding to Neil's Notes the Oregonian made that Sandi Day reference, but admittedly I don't see the source as Neil's Notes.

And Safety & Security Executive Harry Saporta  - just what has he been doing to earn his $155,000 annual salary? TriMet hires safety expert Harry Saporta in response to 2010 Portland tragedy.  That is TriMet's operator Sandi Day incident.

According to the GM “Harry is the right person to help make safety the focus throughout our organization and transform the organization’s culture where safety is not just a priority but a value. We are very fortunate to have such a gifted and dedicated professional join us.” Really?

This is a management failure that cannot be shifted to the individual or the union. There are few, if any, who when offered to push their annual income past the $100,000 mark would turn it down.  It is doubtful that any driver at the start of his or her overtime felt so fatigued that they could predict their nodding off.

This is pure Neil Notes bullshit: ""We can tighten policies and we can audit compliance, but in the end, the most effective tool to fight fatigue is the very tool I'm calling on each of us to use, and that requires no rule or contract change: our good judgment, our pride in our professionalism, and setting safety as a value we all hold."

Despite the use of "we" and "our," Neil is pointing the finger at the worker. It is their fatigue, it is their poor judgment, and it is their pride that is missing. At the management level no wrong can be had.

The buck stops with the worker. Who would have thought?