I heard about this story on the radio this morning and forgot to post about it until now. I’m starting to like the New York Times’ new found horror at public sector generosity:
Of all the assaults that prompted a bus operator to take paid leave in 2009, a third of them, 51 in total, “involved a spat upon,” according to statistics the Metropolitan Transportation Authority released on Monday.
No weapon was involved in these episodes. “Strictly spitting,” said Charles Seaton, a New York City Transit spokesman.
And the encounters, while distressing, appeared to take a surprisingly severe toll: the 51 drivers who went on paid leave after a spitting incident took, on average, 64 days off work — the equivalent of three months with pay. One driver, who was not identified by the authority, spent 191 days on paid leave.
Transit officials, facing a budget shortfall of $400 million, called the numbers troubling. “We have to see what we’re going to do with that,” said Joseph Smith, who oversees bus operations for New York City Transit.
Spitting falls under the category of assault in the drivers’ contract with the authority. And officials at Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents city bus operators, said the extended absences were justified.
“Being spat upon — having a passenger spit in your face, spit in your mouth, spit in your eye — is a physically and psychologically traumatic experience,” said John Samuelsen, the union’s president. “If transit workers are assaulted, they are going to take off whatever amount of time they are going to take off to recuperate.”