- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2000

The Metro Board of Directors approved without discussion yesterday a pay plan that will increase the pay scales of top managers by more than $44,000 a year while giving much smaller raises to middle managers.
The Washington Times first reported yesterday that Metro General Manager Richard A. White had sought to raise the maximum annual salaries of his top managers by more than 25 percent to attract new hires to the transit agency.
Assistant general managers Panagiotis A. "Takis" Salpeas and Gail Charles, who were involved in hiring a part-time consultant under a $333,000 contract without the board's knowledge, could see substantial increases in their pay.
Metro Transit Police officers reacted with anger at the board's approving salary increases for managers while balking for two years on raising their pay to that of other police officers.
Terrence Edwards, business manager for Teamster's Union Local 246, said transit officers make 8 percent less than the average pay of other police officers in the region.
Mr. Edwards said Metro's 280 transit officers have not had a contract for two years because Metro managers have balked at giving them a parity pay contract.
Improving managers' salaries "seems to be consistent with Metro," Mr. Edwards said. "We don't think their priority is for the members who make [Metro] run. We think the priority should be to the people who are making this system the safest in the country.
"We wonder whether they are serious about making this thing run when they decide to put this money into management and not the lower echelon," Mr. Edwards said. "It is a problem when they talk about management parity when they don't want to bring parity to their troops."
"Metro management feels we have a very competitive wage and benefits package on the table," Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said of the police's pay parity issue.
"We are continuing to negotiate that package," Mr. Feldmann said. "Talks are ongoing, which we believe is a positive sign, and we are optimistic we will be able to reach an agreement shortly both sides will be happy with."
Arlington County Supervisor Christopher E. Zimmerman, a Democrat and member of the Metro board, said after the meeting he understands there is a wide gap between the pay scales of top and middle managers.
"Equity is certainly a concern," he said, adding that the pay plan is designed to attract and retain hires in critical jobs.
Of the 1,225 professional and managerial jobs covered by the new pay plan, 196 are vacant. Overall, Metro has 517 vacancies for its total of 9,800 jobs.
A tight labor market has forced employers like Metro to raise salaries to remain competitive, Mr. Zimmerman said, adding that transit officials also must ensure they get what they pay for.
"The difference is that we are moving away from the notion that [pay] increases are automatic and you just get an increase for hanging around," he said.
The new "executive salary range" would increase the annual pay scale for chief operating officers from $123,275 to $162,000. Assistant general managers who make up to $141,127 could receive as much as $170,100.
Deputy general managers who make as much as $152,887 could see their salaries increased to $187,200, and salaries for directors would jump from a maximum of $112,869 to $145,800.
Mr. White recommended the pay scale increases after calling for a $350,000 study of transit industry salaries, saying it is difficult to attract qualified professionals.
The study by the consulting firm Watson Wyatt and Co. compared salaries paid by private companies and other transit agencies for comparable positions. In the past, Metro had compared its salaries with those of federal and local agencies.
Meanwhile, Transit Police officers said Metro management has done little to boost their salaries and has killed morale with low pay and a quota system that forces them to cite riders for eating and drinking on trains and buses.
"We are supposed to be the average of the top five jurisdictions, which is the hang-up with management," said a veteran officer. "They keep delaying and stalling."
Transit officers said they are shorthanded and Metro cannot recruit enough qualified officers. One officer said only four of 100 recruits were able to pass the entrance examination to join the force, adding that veterans hope Metro does not lower standards to fill their ranks.
Daniel F. Drummond contributed to this report.

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