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Who is #1 transit agency pays B/O's top hourly rate wage?
Posted by GOLD_12th on Tue Mar 9 01:17:36 2010
Chicago Tribune discusses about CTA B/O's pays:
CTA pay for bus drivers is No. 3 in nation
Rate rises to No. 1 when cost of living considered
At $28.64 an hour, the top wage rate for Chicago Transit Authority bus drivers ranks third-highest among U.S. transit agencies, according to an analysis conducted for the Tribune.
CTA bus drivers trail only their counterparts at two transit agencies operating on opposite coasts. The top hourly salary for bus drivers at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston leads the industry, at $30.18; while the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, Calif., pays bus operators with the most seniority $28.86 an hour, according to John A. Dash & Associates, a transit research firm in Havertown, Pa.
But the rankings catapult CTA bus drivers to elite status — the highest-paid in the nation — when the cost of living in the Chicago area is compared with the Boston and San Jose markets. That was the case in 2008 as well — before the last two CTA pay raises — when an internal study by the Amalgamated Transit Union, the labor union that represents CTA bus drivers, ranked CTA drivers No. 3 overall in top hourly pay and No. 1 when the Consumer Price Index was taken into account.
Drivers strongly defend their pay at a time when the transit agency's management is demanding they give up raises and take furlough days to close a budget deficit and end cuts that slashed bus service by 18 percent in February. CTA bus driver Pat Mojarro said transit employees "are worth at least $150 an hour" because of the responsibilities and potential dangers of the job.
"We are verbally and physically attacked every day. We are expected to be police, homeland security, lost and found, maintenance, doctor and psychiatrist for the public," Mojarro said. "Add that up and see how much we are underpaid."
The good pay comes from good timing, said Greg Dash, president of John A. Dash & Associates, a consulting firm that works with the CTA and other major mass transit systems.
"The current five-year labor contract at the CTA was negotiated in the glory days before the recession hit, and many transit agencies subsequently imposed wage freezes," Dash said. "It was sort of a birthright a few years back that everybody gets their 3 percent" annual raise.
Bus drivers at other U.S. transit systems received significantly smaller increases, or no pay hikes at all, in contracts that came up for renewal in late 2008 or early 2009, Dash said.
In Chicago's mass transit system, "we're OK with the wages we receive. And we know that we actually outperform bus drivers in some other cities even though they earn more," said Darrell Jefferson, president of the CTA bus drivers union, Local 241 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
The CTA's labor contracts, negotiated in 2006 and in effect from 2007 through 2011, are up for renegotiation in 2012. The top scale for CTA rail operators, $28.13 an hour, is slightly less than for bus drivers. Comparisons were not available for rail worker salaries at transit systems and at commuter rail systems, where the job requirements and compensation are different.
The trend toward smaller or no pay increases, and attempts by transit agencies to reopen contracts midstream, might strengthen the hand of CTA management to wrest concessions from its bus driver and rail operator unions — if not during the current contract, then perhaps the next one, experts said.
For now, the unions have the luxury of riding out their current contracts unless conditions force a change. Such factors include the growing possibility later this year of more service cuts and employee layoffs to make up for funding shortfalls.
CTA officials said they cannot restore service that was cut on Feb. 7 or hire back any of the 1,059 laid-off transit workers, unless the union agrees to give up this year's 3.5 percent salary increase and accept 10 unpaid furlough days, as well as possibly accept other concessions to erase a projected $95.6 million budget deficit. More than 900 of the laid-off workers are bus drivers, bus mechanics and bus cleaners.
Union leaders have refused to consider management's proposals, saying their members have bailed out the CTA in the past and that the union has a duty to protect the middle-class lifestyle of CTA workers. In addition, union leaders say the CTA cannot count on its labor force as a cash machine in difficult times.
Living in Chicago has its economic advantages.
Boston and San Jose have considerably higher cost-of-living indexes than Chicago, meaning that a paycheck here goes farther and the CTA's No. 3 ranking would shoot to the top if the costs of buying a home or feeding a family were factored in.
For example, a bus driver who is paid $60,000 a year in Chicago would need to earn about $83,800 in San Jose — almost 40 percent more — to maintain the same standard of living, according to a cost-of-living comparison by Bankrate.com.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's New York City Transit ranks No. 6, at $27.99 an hour. Bus drivers for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in the District of Columbia are at No. 10, earning a top rate of $26.81 an hour.
Others include the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, which ranks No. 12 and pays drivers a top rate of $26.19 an hour; and the west division in the Chicago region of Pace suburban bus, placing No. 17 with a top hourly rate of $24.93.
The Detroit Department of Transportation was far down the list, paying out a top rate of $17.31 to bus drivers. Other transit agencies that pay bus drivers a top scale of less than $20 an hour include Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Denver's Regional Transportation District, Orlando's Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.
"The industry today is a tale of two cities — it's the best of times and the worst of times," Dash said. "There is more variation in transit settlements than I have seen since our company started tracking it in 1968."
But the best of times are not predicted for Chicago transit, barring a surprise infusion of new funding or an agreement on concessions with the CTA bus and rail union to restore service and jobs. The problem is only compounded by the state falling about $250 million behind on subsidy payments to the CTA, Metra and Pace.
"Now with the Regional Transportation Authority's recent announcement that it is running low on cash, we have to focus on staying as lean as possible,'' said CTA chairman Terry Peterson. "Unfortunately for our employees and customers, that means discussions about restoring jobs and service are on hold until our finances stabilize."