City Hall calls out union amid Staten Island Ferry fiasco

The city is calling out the union that represents much of the Staten Island Ferry crew and captains, after a number of workers called out sick Friday, causing a schedule slowdown for the second day in a row.

In a letter Friday, the mayor’s Office of Labor Relations reminded union leaders of Taylor’s Law, which states that “no public employee or employee organization shall engage in a strike, and no public employee or employee organization shall cause, instigate, encourage, or condone a strike.” The letter went on to say that the city would monitor the situation closely and take all appropriate actions to enforce the city’s legal rights.

Early Friday morning, ferries were operating on an hourly schedule starting at 6 a.m, according to an announcement from the city’s Department of Transportation. At 2:30 p.m, the DOT announced ferries would run every 30 minutes. Typically, they run every 20 minutes early mornings, and every 15 minutes during rush hour.

“Absolutely terrible,” wrote one Twitter user. “The announcement said all bathrooms are locked. I don’t see any DOT employees. And only 2 security guards. I hope something doesn’t happen here. Got a lot of angry passengers on a Friday morning of a holiday weekend.”

The DOT again attributed the service cutbacks to a high number of crew members calling out sick, in an emailed statement Friday morning.

“Starting Thursday morning and continuing into Friday, the vast majority of Captains, Assistant Captains, and Mates scheduled to operate Staten Island Ferry vessels have called out sick,” DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel said in a statement. “These changes are extremely disruptive to the tens of thousands of people who ride the ferry every day… We expect any Staten Island Ferry workers who are not sick to come to work.”

The Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, the union representing crew and captains, responded to the letter through an attorney, who denied that there was a strike and said the problem was an ongoing understaffing issue.

“The union has not engaged in, and is not engaging, in a strike or any other unlawful activity. Nor has it caused, instigated, encouraged, or condoned a strike or other unlawful activity,” attorney Daniel R. Bright wrote in the letter.

“As you should be aware, the Department of Transportation has announced service reductions more than two hundred times since January 1, 2022. Clearly, staffing shortages are an ongoing problem that management has failed to effectively address. This has been a problem for quite some time,” Bright wrote.

The union has been in an ongoing contract dispute with the city for over a decade.

According to the DOT, a full crew to operate a boat includes one Captain, one Assistant Captain, three Mates, one Chief Engineer, one Marine Engineer, two Marine Oilers and six Deckhands. Just one of those people missing could affect service.

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