Bus drivers top $100,000 in pay with OT
A Port Authority worker who fixes fareboxes made more money last year than the attorney who fixes the agency’s legal problems. A bus driver earned more than the executive who oversees more than 800 buses.
The four are among 18 employees who collected more than $100,000 in pay, many by volunteering for overtime compensation. The cash-strapped agency says it’s cheaper to pay OT than to hire more workers, though the union sees it differently.
“If you want to cut overtime costs, hire more workers,” said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 President Patrick McMahon. “We would rather have more employees working a normal day than 50 working overtime.”
Port Authority does not figure to do much hiring. In March, the agency slashed 270 positions, including 180 through layoffs, and cut service 15 percent to close a $47 million deficit. It’s unclear how those moves will affect workers’ hours — the agency has fewer workers, but has reduced service.
Ten workers who made at least $100,000 were represented by ATU. Nine made tens of thousands of dollars in overtime, and one cracked six figures with the help of a back-pay settlement. They included five drivers, two supervisors, two maintenance workers and the farebox repairman.
Eight of the authority’s six-figure workers were management-level, nonunion executives.
Overall, workers collected $149.1 million in gross pay on base wages of $131.3 million.
“I’m not robbing the public,” said farebox repairman Scott Mackey, 53, of Monongahela, who made $103,914, including $50,208 in overtime.
Mackey said the amount was almost double what he had made in 17 years with the agency. He worked long hours dealing with problems from a private company’s installation of new fareboxes, part of a $33 million project scheduled for completion in March.
“None of us rank-and-file workers have the power to write our own schedules. We don’t create these situations,” said Mackey, who’s back on a normal schedule.
Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said, “In the long term, we save money as an agency by paying overtime to existing workers who fill gaps than we would by hiring more workers full-time” and paying all the related costs.
Overtime is 1.5 times normal pay, based on time worked beyond eight hours in a day. The costs generally are less than the cost of new full-time employees who receive, on average, $70,000 to $85,000 a year in base pay and benefits, officials said.
Less than 1 percent of the agency’s 2,500 workers earned six figures. More than 7 percent of working Pennsylvanians did so between 2007 and 2009, the latest state Department of Labor and Industry figures show.
Jonathan Robison, president of the Allegheny County Transit Council, a volunteer organization of frequent riders, thinks the agency should cap how much OT drivers can work and simply hire more workers.
“It would cost more money, but I think it would make the system better and safer,” Robison said. “I don’t want the driver of my bus working double shifts.”
The top-paid driver, Charles Adams of the Ross garage, made $71,240 in overtime on top of a $51,459 base wage. That would require almost 2,000 hours of OT.
Adams’ total pay of $122,699 made him the agency’s fourth-highest-paid employee, behind CEO Steve Bland ($185,004), rail operations and engineering officer Winston Simmonds ($134,808) and assistant general manager of planning and development Wendy Stern ($130,008). Michael Cetra made $103,008 as legal counsel.
Bland, hired in 2006, has forgone $5,000 annual raises, deferred compensation of $15,000 a year and use of a car since 2007, Ritchie said.
Adams did not return messages.
“Chuck (Adams) basically lives in the garage or on a bus. He’s always put in long hours,” McMahon said, noting workers volunteer for OT by placing their names on a daily list that dispatchers use to find fill-ins. Other six-figure drivers were Martie Hall ($109,091), Ruthann Donnelly ($108,546), Karen Wright ($102,328) and Eduardo C. Bayotlang ($100,818). They did not return messages or could not be reached.
Maintenance worker Tamara Clark, who could not be reached, made $115,340 — more than double her $50,793 base pay — even though she worked just nine months.
Clark received $72,000 in back pay after getting her job back in March, McMahon said. Port Authority fired her in 2008, alleging she helped stage an incident that became the basis of a race discrimination lawsuit filed in February. The agency is fighting the suit.
The woman who filed it, maintenance worker Deborah Blocker, was reinstated in June and made $68,803 for about a half-year’s work. Details on her settlement were not available, and she could not be reached.