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Front Page » Top Stories » Two-thirds of Metrorail technicians unqualified to work alone

Two-thirds of Metrorail technicians unqualified to work alone

Written by on June 25, 2019
Two-thirds of Metrorail technicians unqualified to work alone

Two-thirds of Metrorail technicians are unqualified to work alone, according to a new report that says the expertise shortage “may compromise the safety of the system.”

But transit union leaders say much of the report is “simply not true,” pointing instead to training and budget cuts that tax both the system and those who keep it running.

As more railcars from manufacturer Hitachi arrive to replace Miami-Dade’s aged fleet, one thing all agree on is this: without changes, things will get worse.

The report advisory firm IMG Rebel delivered June 19 to the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust lists an array of troubling findings.

Most alarming is the conclusion that of 99 authorized Metrorail technician slots, workers who can troubleshoot and work alone fill just 12, with to 64 held by undertrained staff and 23 vacant.

That qualification dearth, IMG says, is due to a mandate that federally funded transit agencies commit to preserving employee rights and benefits, including collective bargaining and employment safeguards.

The last time Miami-Dade and Transport Workers Union Local 291 agreed to terms was before 1990, when labor rules allowed outside hiring and minimum qualifications. Today’s seniority-based pipeline in which former bus drivers are promoted to be Metrorail technicians is “one of the most restrictive bargaining unit agreements and recruitment practices [IMG has] encountered,” the report says.

“Should there be another hurricane… it may not take two days [but weeks] to get the system [running],” IMG Rebel Senior VP Sasha Page said.

Transportation Director Alice Bravo said her department is “strategizing with [county] attorneys” and had sent the union a letter that “draws a line in the sand.”

That letter, Transportation Deputy Director Alberto Parjus said, told the union it is violating state and federal rules and unless terms for minimum qualifications and better training are reached, the county will set those standards without union input.

“Part of it is going to be a big legal battle,” Ms. Bravo said. “We’ve asked them to come to the table over the last six months. They’ve refused to meet with us.”

But such talks five years ago led nowhere, said Jeffrey Mitchell, union president.

“We went to arbitration for better training,” he said. “They fought tooth and nail to keep it like it is.”

As is, he said, potential technicians undergo up to a year’s training, then a year-long probation, only after which are they certified.

“[The county] has… two years to figure [things] out,” he said. “We’ve got a system almost 40 years old [we keep] running. Now it’s not safe? Well, that starts at the top. If you’re not willing to invest… you can’t complain about the results.”

And the report’s finding that most technicians can’t work alone is “flawed,” he said.

Techs have no issue with the old railcars, he said, but Hitachi’s – which come with defective brakes and doors that opened while the train is in motion – are another matter.

“The technicians we got from Hitachi, most are from Jiffy Lube. They’re sitting under the trains trying to teach our guys, and they don’t know themselves,” he said. “And [the county’s] sitting here talking about safety.”

14 Responses to Two-thirds of Metrorail technicians unqualified to work alone

  1. Reality99r

    June 26, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    Another example of a union destroying the free enterprise system resulting in the general public suffering needlessly.

    • Jeffery

      June 27, 2019 at 11:15 am

      The union had asked for for better training. The training we have is the County’s training that we went to arbitration to try and force them to provide real training. The arbitrator ruled thatthey could train as they see fit, that was 6 yeas ago and training has remained the same.The Director don’t come to labor management meetings where we meet every month, so that makes her a liar about not meeting. Her goal is to eliminate job opportunities for blacks and Hispanics in our community.

    • Edward Freeman

      June 27, 2019 at 3:37 pm

      Free Enterprise? What on earth about a public transportation system is free enterprise? Free enterprise only works when people know what it is. When it does work it concentrates money and power in the hands of a few and harms the vast majority, but I am sure that is way beyond you at the moment. Maybe to start you should go back and retake 6th grade social studies and learn what free enterprise is.

      • Reality99r

        June 28, 2019 at 4:33 pm

        You are correct but you apparently did not understand the sarcasm > in free enterprise there is competition and the enterprise is largely free of governmental control > a socialist government manages the “social and economic affairs and often direct what kind of work people have to do and also limit the opportunity of many people” > in a government controlled operation the results are only as effective as the competency of the administrators and (perhaps?)a taxpayer funded government controlled operation should not permit union representation as it is the antithesis of fairness to the taxpayers > and if no one is monitoring the competency of the salaried administrators, and if the unions do not allow a fair disciplining, firing (if appropriate), and replacement of those found incompetent, the taxpayer is once again screwed > it is in a government controlled operation (not free enterprise) that “concentrates money and power in the hands of a few and harms the vast majority” > I learned that in 7th grade > in free enterprise necessary corrective action seems to happen a whole lot more efficiently.

        • Edward Freeman

          June 29, 2019 at 12:38 pm

          No sarcasm doesn’t doesn’t carry well in written language. Whatever you want to call it, the system that we have in the United States today has produced a society where the richest 3 Americans have more money than the poorest 150,000,000 Americans. It is the most unequal system among developed nations and today the United States has less social mobility than Pakistan. The system that has produced the inequalities is in truth neither free enterprise, nor socialist. It is a kleptocracy.

          • Reality99r

            June 30, 2019 at 6:05 pm

            The definition of “kleptomania” is “an irresistible mania for pilfering” which means a “kleptocracy” is where those in control of a government are the richest folks in the countries they control. This pretty much describes every person in control of any communist, socialist, fascist, and/or dictator run country, as virtually each one of them ends up being worth billions while they run their country into ruin. To equate that with a free enterprise system is possibly insane. At least in a republic when the governing authorities raise taxes to unbearable levels, we can vote in a change without facing execution.

    • Glc

      June 28, 2019 at 4:56 am

      Union is the best for the wealthy of the employees this is no a comunist country

  2. Shawn

    June 27, 2019 at 7:55 am

    Thats what happens when 90% of employees are relatives, friends or such. There’s only opportunity for those with a “plug”. Thats why Transit is always upside down.

    • Glc

      June 28, 2019 at 4:57 am

      It’s by seniority.

  3. Lovette

    June 27, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Well I have not heard of any rail accidents. Have I missed something? Now everyone want to attack hard-working people. Shame on you. Let me know what I’m missing. My neighbor leaves his house at 4:30 most days headed to the rail. He has not taken a day off In over 20 years except to bury his mother.

  4. Kathy

    June 27, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    I’m a rail technician and we never work alone due to the high risk of electrical exposure. We work in pairs and always watch each other’s backs when the trains are passing us. The only job we can do alone is housekeeping, taking out the trash and keeping the train control rooms clean and some trouble calls in the tc rooms.

  5. Ron grey

    June 27, 2019 at 10:01 pm

    Transit has always had a problem with nepotism. It’s throughout Transit, bus operations Training Department is filled by friends and favors. This Agency is run by a friend of the Mayor (Alice Bravo) that has no idea about running mass Transit. Metrorail Managers all came from failing rail companies by friends who locked in positions at MDT. They can’t fix or instruct, just demand.

  6. Edward Freeman

    June 28, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    I don’t live in Miami-Dade and I have no idea how well your transit system works. Of course everyone wants a system that is efficient and effective and cost as little as possible. I do think the citizen there should be thankful for the transit system that they do have, many communities have far less. I can believe that nepotism is a problem in your transit system, it is a huge problem everywhere, just look at the White House. It doesn’t get any more blatant and problematic than that.

  7. John Snow

    July 2, 2019 at 3:11 am

    The contract agreed upon with the Union has compromised the county’s ability to hire quality workers with the proper experience to fill specialized jobs within the Metro rail and Metro mover systems. Bus Operators with 25 years in the county get chosen over outside applicants who have specialized experience that match the responsibilities required. It has become a safety concern. Certain jobs require technical skills and cannot be taught quickly. It takes time to develop the required skills to work in specific roles within the department of transit. This is time that the county cannot afford to waste. We need to hire the right people! Years of service should not determine whether a person gets the job! Experience and knowledge is what matters in the train industry. Qualified workers will ultimately mean better service for the people of Miami Dade County.