This item is not likely to get near so much attention as the recent public employee union shenanigans surrounding the disputed Boston firefighters' contract, but it's a fun little anecdote in its own right.
Under the clever front page headline "In-tollerable," the Boston Herald this morning reported that Pike toll-takers were recently paid overtime wages to take the Commonwealth's new 'ethics/minimum degree electrical activity in the brain' test.
Trying gamely to defend the indefensible, Department of Transportation spokesman Colin Durrant said, according to the Herald, "the idea was to keep traffic flowing on the tollway."
What's that now? Does he mean the alternative was to shut down the Pike to allow the toll-takers sufficient time to mull over such ethical connundra as, "Can politicians run their campaigns on taxpayer time or flash their business cards to avoid drunken-driving busts?" Well, yes - apparently that's exactly what Durrant meant. "The solution devised was within the requirements of the existing union agreement," he added.
So dollars-to-doughnuts, here's what happened: Pike union officials, their highly-calibrated noses catching a whiff of available toll-payer bucks, told the DOT bosses, "You want us to take that test? You're paying OT." When said DOT bosses pushed back (I have to believe they pushed back. I just do. Call me an idealist), the union guys said, "OK, don't pay us OT. But your fancy little test is mandatory. And our contract doesn't allow you to force us to do anything on our own time. So we'll just do it on the clock and let the traffic wait for a few minutes to get through the tolls. How'd that be?"
This news comes on the same day as Lt. Gov. Tim Murray crowed to Boston.com about the administration's consolidation of the Commonwealth's transportation agencies. That consolidation, he claims, has "already saved hundreds of millions of dollars for tax payers and toll payers." Asked by a reader (gently) for an accounting of those "hundreds of millions of dollars" in supposed savings, Murray pulled the time-honored 'outta time!' trick and referred the reader to the Patrick/Murray campaign website. Needless to say, no such accounting is provided there.
It's a good and happy thing that the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority no longer exists as a free-standing entity. But the 'ethical overtime' imbroglio splashed all over the Herald today makes clear that the Turnpike culture is still alive and well, sustained and maintained by the continued strength of the toll-takers' union and the continued willingness of the Patrick Administration to roll over for its demands.