On the day Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) CEO John Hanson was supposed to receive a raise, a union official asked for the same for his workers at this morning’s meeting of the DRPA and PATCO boards.
IBEW Local 351 represents 23 DRPA employees, said the union’s Assistant Business Manager, William Hosey. Hosey said the workers had gone without a contract since 2012, meaning it’s been four years since their last pay increase.
“I think those 23 people deserve that raise, and I think the CEO should get his raise. They’ve both earned the money,” said Hosey.
Hanson’s planned raise, from $180,081 to $219,474 was delayed for at least a month. Executive pay changes are supposed to be cleared by the DRPA’s labor committee before being put to a full board vote. But Hanson’s pay bump was left off this month’s labor committee agenda, necessitating the push back.
When Hanson was promoted from DRPA CFO to CEO in 2014, his pay did not increase. His salary is being raised to the same made by the previous authority CEO, John Matheussen.
Hosey’s public comments on union pay sparked a flurry of remarks from the DRPA commissioners. John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, who sits on the board as Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s representative, wasted no time getting his IBEW brother’s back.
“This guy [Hosey] guy has been nothing but supportive. So if he had to voice a concern, that’s a bigger concern for me,” said Dougherty. Dougherty is the business manager for IBEW Local 98, which is based in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The Local 351 represents South Jersey.
“If he is frustrated, it tells me that something is broken,” said Dougherty.
Dougherty added that, in his capacity as a DRPA commissioner, he has called for a business plan to address the lack of contracts with the unions representing DRPA workers.
IBEW 351 isn’t the only union that’s gone without a contract. The Fraternal Order of Police, which represents DRPA bridge police and PATCO transit police, went to arbitration to win a new contract for its 135 represented employees in 2014. International Union of Operating Engineers Local 542, which represents around 210 toll collectors, maintenance workers, police dispatchers, and other employees, has also worked without a collective bargaining agreement since 2013. The same goes from the Teamsters Local 676, which represents about 200 PATCO train operators and mechanics.
Vice-Chairman Jeff Nash said the board was in a good position to begin contract negotiations with the unions soon, citing the authority’s improved finances over the last few years.* “We are in a position now for reasonable raises for the represented employees, as we did last year for the non-represented employees,” Nash said.
“We will get this resolved,” said Nash. “It’s not just a Trenton issue.”
But Trenton will factor in heavily into the negotiations. The Governor of New Jersey gets to review and possibly veto every resolution passed by the DRPA board, whereas the Pennsylvania Governor selects the board chair. While those vetoes are relatively rare, current Governor and Presidential candidate Chris Christie has an infamously antagonistic relationship with public employee unions, and used his veto power in 2010 to block the restoration of some DRPA employee perks.
Dougherty suggested Christie’s aspirations for the Republican Party nomination might influence his decision on whether to accept or veto a future union contract, saying “No disrespect. I’m not running for President. I’m consistent.”
Consultants for the DRPA are wrapping up an employee salary structure study in the next few weeks. With the study in hand, the DRPA will be ready to negotiate, said DRPA Chairman Ryan Boyer.
“We’ll have a detailed argument when we go to Trenton,” said Boyer, who represents 5,000 construction workers as the business manager of the Laborers’ District Council of Metropolitan Philadelphia and Vicinity and joined the board saying he would raise pay.
After the meeting, Nash played down concerns about a potential Christie veto of a negotiated collective bargaining agreement.
“This issue of Trenton is overstated,” said Nash.
FREQUENT COMMUTER DISCOUNT: SLOW OUT OF THE TOLL GATE
Numbers are in for the first month of DRPA’s frequent bridge commuter discount program, which launched December 1. Through December 30th, almost 12,000 commuters enrolled 16,700 New Jersey E-ZPass transponders in the program. That’s only 57 percent of the projected number of frequent bridge commuters.
The program cost “somewhere around $100,000,” in its first month, said DRPA CFO James White. White added that the figures are a bit low because many regular commuters take vacations in December.
The discount, available to bridge commuters using New Jersey E-ZPass tags at least 18 times in a month, has been criticized by some PATCO advocates, who call it unfair and question the wisdom of encouraging more driving.
PATCO PASSENGER POPULATION PEAKING
For the first time since 2011, ridership on the PATCO Speedline went up in 2015, reported PATCO General Manager John Rink.
Ridership increased to 10,169,487 passengers, up 162,231 riders since 2014. Rink noted the increase came despite a heavy storm in June that knocked out power across Southern Jersey that halted PATCO operations.
The increase also came despite PATCO operating most of the year on a reduced schedule as track rehabilitation work on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge wrapped up. Single-tracking across the Bridge reduced train frequency to every 15 minutes on weekdays and 30 minutes on the weekend. Since that work finished January 2nd, headways have improved to 12 minutes on weekdays and 25 minutes on weekends.
*CORRECTION: This sentence originally said the Vice-Chairman’s first name was “Steve.” It is Jeff. Steve Nash is a Canadian basektball player. They are not related.