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New York Post

 

MTA's Too-Nice Pay

July 13, 2011

By Nicole Gelinas

The average MTA worker made $71,237 last year in salary, wages and other cash pay, according to new data posted by SeeThroughNY, a project of the Empire Center, on its Web site.

This sum and other MTA salaries should remind New Yorkers that politicians who refuse to question transit workers’ pay as part of budget cutting don’t know the facts -- or don’t care.

Gov. Cuomo should insist that when their contract is up this winter, workers at the MTA’s biggest union, the TWU, take the same three-year wage freeze that other state workers are taking. Moreover, the governor and lawmakers should make sure that the MTA doesn’t hide behind secrecy in negotiating with its unions.

There’s big bucks to be made at the MTA. Of course, MTA chief Jay Walder clocked in at the top of his 65,495-person-strong workforce, earning $349,040 -- more than Cuomo. All told, 488 workers made more than $150,000, and 7,993 people took home six figures.

Not bad, huh?

Hundreds of folks more than doubled their pay through overtime and other extras, including 53 Metro-North conductors who took home an average of $166,494 each and 11 LIRR engineers who took home about $169,431 apiece.

Nineteen foremen on the LIRR, too, took in an average of $164,057 with salaries, wages and any extra cash payments. Fifteen Metro-North engineers took in $156,450 each.

People without a lot of overtime and other extras did just fine, too. The average LIRR worker made $84,850, just behind the brass and police at headquarters. The average city transit worker -- mostly union members -- took in $69,126.

These figures don’t even include benefits. With the MTA’s pension and health-care payments, averages would be in the six figures.

Here’s the MTA’s (and the riders’) problem. The authority can slash services, but costs don’t go down because pay keeps going up. Since 2008, in fact, the authority has cut more than 5 percent of its workforce, or about 4,000 positions. Last year, Walder made more budget cuts.

But payroll costs still went up by 1.4 percent (or $71.1 million) last year, for a total of $5.3 billion. Part of that is city transit workers’ 4 percent raises, which state appointees awarded the Transport Workers Union in 2009, even as state pols levied a one-third-of-a-percent tax on all downstate payrolls to keep the MTA afloat. Before the biggest budget cuts, those raises alone would have cost $145 million in 2010.

The cuts show up in things New Yorkers care about: delays, trash and curtailed service. When track workers can’t keep up the tracks, delays ensue. Yet throughout last year, the MTA had 38 fewer trackworkers on its payroll, or 1.8 percent, and still spent 6.1 percent more. The average worker made $64,994 (a figure that, like that for all job titles mentioned, is higher than the previous year).

Same thing went for the workers that clean stations, buses and train cars. The MTA had 136 fewer positions in that category, or 3.4 percent, but ended up spending 5.4 percent more. Each cleaner earned $47,949 on average.

The MTA eliminated 121 token-booth clerk positions (3.6 percent) but ended up saving only 1.3 percent. Clerks earned, on average, $57,202. The ranks of suburban ticket-sellers at the two commuter railroads fell by 19, or 9.1 percent, but the MTA saved only 6.9 percent. Each ticket clerk earned about $66,050.

Without a doubt, these jobs are tough; it’s easier to write newspaper columns than to walk hot tracks or sit in a booth all night. But these jobs are not poorly paid. The average New Yorker in the private sector earns about $55,120. The MTA worker earns 31 percent more -- and has retirement security, while people in the private sector worry about whether they’ll be able to retire at all.

Perhaps with the acute budget emergencies over, Cuomo will start to think about whether the state can roll back some of its two-year-old payroll-tax bailout, which brings in more than $1 billion for the MTA.

After all, the same suburban voters who helped drive the property-tax cap are squawking loudest against this tax, which hurts small businesses and even county governments.

But tax-repeal advocates should know that unless the governor deals squarely with compensation, any payroll-tax roll-back would be temporary window dressing.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/mta_too_nice_pay_yaOJpA4zHnVb6YRskNqB3K

 

 
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