CTA Union Boss Disputes $10M Savings in Absenteeism Crackdown

Mayor, CTA President say $10M has been saved in last two years

The head of the Chicago Transit Authority's employee union on Tuesday said he isn't buying the claim that a crackdown on fraudulent absenteeism at the agency has saved the CTA $10 million over the last two years.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool touted the drop during a morning press event in which they announced that the number of employees showing up late to work or calling out sick had dropped by 22 percent.

They credited the reduction to new management initiatives that focus on reducing unnecessary time for sick leave and job-related injuries.

But CTU Union President Bob Kelly said he disagrees with the numbers.

"What part of the CTA, the union or the non-union?" he said in an afternoon telephone interview.
"They're firing anybody who has a seventh entry of absenteeism in a 12-month period, regardless of the reason. If you had a baby and you didn't make it that day, you've still got an absenteeism."

He said the union has taken many of those cases to arbitration.

Still, Emanuel and Claypool said the 22 percent drop cut additional costs from $40 million annually in 2011 to $30 million. The average, agency-wide absenteeism rate for the first six months of this year was 5.5 percent, reduced from 6.4 percent last year and 7.1 percent in 2011.

Claypool said the CTA has seen 72,024 days of work absences so far this year compared to 77,150 during the same period last year.

"May and June of 2013 showed among the lowest rates of absenteeism in recent agency history, with the overall rate falling to below 5 percent," the mayor's office announced in a release.

The new management initiatives began in March and April of 2012 and will continue to address the remaining $30 million in expenses.

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