Monday, May 24, 2010

Take two months off

MTA bus drivers who were spat on by riders last year got an average two months paid time off after the humiliating experiences, officials revealed Monday.

That's because transit workers are entitled to get a paid break after an "assault" - which apparently includes spitting.

"We're going to have to take a look and see what we're going to do with that," Joe Smith, senior vice president of buses for NYC Transit, told MTA board members at a committee meeting.

Some 51 drivers took an average 64 paid days off after suffering a saliva assault.

The jaw-dropping statistic comes as the MTA is grappling with a massive budget deficit, laying off workers and planning for fare hikes in January.

"I don't envy anyone [who is spat upon]... but you have to wonder if you can go home and shower off, take a nap, take off the rest of the day and maybe the next day," MTA board member Nancy Shevell said at the meeting.

"When it gets strung out for months, you start to wonder," Shevell said.

A total of 153 bus drivers took time off last year after being assaulted, said Steve Vidal, vice president of security and training.

Operating a bus "is one of the most dangerous jobs" at the agency, NYC Transit Security Director Vincent DeMarino said.

"People do attack our bus operators on a daily basis," DeMarino told the board members.

Some bus drivers who were spat upon took time off, but others remained on duty or returned to work the next day, officials said.

"It's a very disturbing and humiliating experience," Smith said.

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