Muni experiencing soaring number of driver sick calls

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco's Muni transportation system has a notoriously high rate of absenteeism. So high that the agency asked for an audit to find out why and to make changes.

Why did your regular bus driver not show up for work today? It's a serious issue that's costing the agency $42 million a year.

Eric Williams is president of the union. He said the real issue is that they don't have enough people to put the service on the streets. He said when some workers put in for a vacation day for a doctor's appointment or family issue and are denied, they might call in sick.

But a newly released audit suggests something else is at the heart of the soaring absenteeism.

"Just hiring more employees is not enough," said Tonia Lediju, who conducted the audit for the city controller's office. She interviewed more than 100 Muni employees and found the largest group, the thousands of transit operators, is the least satisfied and it basically comes down to respect.

"Do we feel valued, do we feel we're being heard. When you have this type of environment, employees do show up and absenteeism goes down," Lediju said.

Apparently, some operators aren't feeling the love from their bosses or the riders. "Everything falls on the operators of what's not making the agency run correctly," she said.

The report has 27 recommendations, including improving the culture to foster meaningful collaboration and communication. SFMTA says some of the changes are already in the works.

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