TWU members protested against staffing and budget cuts Tuesday in Jamaica saying the reductions have resulted in rats swarming the subways.
MTA budget and staffing cutbacks have caused the rat population to explode in the subway system, transit workers charged Tuesday.
“Cutbacks mean the rats are back!” Transport Workers Union Local 100 members and officers chanted at a rally at an entrance to the Parsons/Archer subway hub in Jamaica, Queens, which has one of the worst infestations.
Union members collected thousands of riders’ signatures for a petition urging management to increase the frequency of garbage pickups, put more trash bins in stations and better seal off refuse storage rooms to rodents.
“We have a huge rat problem,” said Kevin Harrington, a Local 100 vice president and one of the three dozen union activists at Parsons/Archer.
“This has proven to be a problem location and even following some of the suggestions offered by the TWU has failed to yield positive results,” said Charles Seaton, an MTA spokesman.
The MTA’s 2010 and 2011 budgets would eliminate 254 subway car-, track- and station-cleaning positions. Projected savings total $21 million annually, budget documents show.
Reports of a greater rat presence underground are anecdotal. The MTA said it doesn’t have a population estimate and said it was unclear if there has been a surge.
Whatever the number, it’s too big, riders and workers said.
“It’s unhealthy to say the least,” said Phyllis Thurston, a clothing store employee from Queens. “The MTA doesn’t seem to care about its customers as long as we give them what they want – money.”
While riders sometimes encounter rodents on platforms, subway workers have to contend with the critters in greater numbers in utility rooms, track beds, locker rooms and lunch rooms, Harrington said.
The union said it plans to hold additional rallies at rat-plagued stations.
The MTA said they are working on a solution.
“In the short term, we are baiting the [Archer] station more often and removing refuse from the station more often,” said Seaton
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