- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2000

Metro needs to increase annual salary ranges for top managers by as much as $44,900 if the transit agency is to stay competitive in attracting new talent, according to General Manager Richard A. White.

Internal Metro documents obtained by The Washington Times show that Mr. White's proposed salary scale, which the Metro Board will consider today, would increase pay for top-tier managers by 25 percent.

But pay increases for lower-level managers and professionals would be less than 10 percent under the plan.

A new "executive salary range" would increase the annual pay scale for chief operating officers from $123,275 to $162,000. Managers who make up to $141,127 could receive as much as $170,100.

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.

The proposed salary scale affects the 1,225 Metro managers, supervisors and some professionals who are not represented by unions.

Metro workers said the pay increases for senior managers, who are appointees of Mr. White, are a "kick in the teeth" for career managers.

Ric Klein, chief shop steward for the Office & Professional Employees International Union, Local 2, said the pay plan would line the pockets of managers and do little to attract professionals.

"I would love to hear a manager argue for this when their general responsibilities have been unchanged for 20 years and their skill levels are virtually unchanged," Mr. Klein said.

"The competitive problem is not with getting managers. The problem is hiring and keeping a technical staff, which this employer is not interested in doing."

Gail Charles, assistant general manager for administration, said the pay scale was developed as a result of a survey of other transit and government agencies.

The pay scale was designed to make Metro more attractive to professionals, she said, noting that the transit authority has scores of job vacancies to fill.

Of the 1,225 professional and managerial jobs under the proposed pay plan, 196 are vacant. Overall, Metro has 517 vacancies for its total of 9,800 jobs.

Ms. Charles said the discrepancy in salary ranges between top and middle managers was caused by Metro failing to keep up with the rising costs of executives.

Ms. Charles, whose maximum salary would increase from $141,127 to $170,100 under the plan, said middle managers should not complain because they could have worked their way through the system.

"It should not be us vs. them and they sit around and say, 'I'm not happy with the current pay structure,' " she said. "Employees have to take responsibility for their goals and development."

Mr. Klein's union has a grievance pending against Metro for its hiring of engineers and technical consultants that displaced about 100 union workers.

The Times first reported about the cost of the highly paid consultants.

Mr. Klein is negotiating a new contract; he noted that the current contract allows Metro to increase salaries for technical employees, but that provision has never been exercised.

Ms. Charles said Local 2 rejected using the proposed pay scale for the union's pay ranges. Mr. Klein said he would not comment about contract negotiations.

Mr. Klein said a $350,000 study by the consulting firm Watson Wyatt and Co., the basis for the pay plan, is flawed because it follows the directives given by Mr. White, who has said attracting workers is hard because of poor pay and benefits.

"It is a management organization," Mr. Klein said of Watson Wyatt and Co. "I don't consider them to be at all independent … They provided numbers for a foregone conclusion."

The study 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.

In other matters today, the Metro board is expected to approve a $329 million contract to rehabilitate 364 rail cars as part of its Infrastructure Renewal Program.

Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said the contract will go to Alstom Transportation Inc., based in Hornell, N.Y., and is the largest single contract ever awarded by the transit agency.

Alstom's sister company, Alstom Signaling of Rochester, N.Y., made and then replaced thousands of faulty relay switches for running Metro rail cars in automatic mode.

The trains returned to automatic operation over the Thanksgiving weekend. They had been run manually since April 1999.

The board also is expected to approve Metro's purchase of 100 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses and a CNG facility. The new facility and overhaul of a maintenance garage for the buses will cost $8 million, and the buses will cost $39 million, Mr. Feldmann said.

• Daniel F. Drummond contributed to this report.

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