Raises for non-union Port Authority employees rescinded after 1 day

Firing of CEO leads to removal of 2.25 percent non-union pay hike

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On Friday, non-union Port Authority employees received a 2.25 percent raise courtesy of CEO Steve Bland, who was fired that same day by the authority board.

On Saturday, those raises were rescinded by interim CEO Ellen McLean after Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald accused Mr. Bland of secretly awarding them just before his firing.

In a prepared statement, Ms. McLean said: "We will review all recent actions and will rescind pay increases for non-represented employees until our board of directors has had an opportunity to review them."

Earlier in the day Mr. Fitzgerald, who orchestrated Mr. Bland's firing, said he was "caught totally by surprise" by the raises and questioned whether Mr. Bland had the authority to issue them.

"For the director, this CEO, to do this on his way out of the door, I just don't think it's proper," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "The timing of this couldn't be worse. We are going to the state for funding. We are trying to show that we can hold the line."

Mr. Bland was fired "without cause" by the authority board Friday. After the 5-3 vote, Mr. Fitzgerald said at a news conference that Mr. Bland did not move quickly enough to implement changes that Mr. Fitzgerald wanted. The raises for non-union employees were not an issue in the firing and Mr. Fitzgerald did not find out about them until after the vote.

Mr. Bland had authorized raises for the 200 to 250 non-union employees at the Port Authority effective Friday, which marked the end of a 30-month period of wage freezes for the employees. The employees work in the finance, engineering, procurement and service planning departments, as well as non-union staff at garages.

Mr. Bland has been unavailable for comment since his termination and has retained an attorney.

But in an internal email provided by Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie, Mr. Bland explained that the non-union employees had made the same sacrifice as members of Local 85 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which accepted a 30-month pay freeze until July 1, 2014, followed by a 2.25 percent increase then.

Mr. Ritchie said the idea of providing raises to non-union employees came up in November, when the board asked Mr. Bland to give them across-the-board raises commensurate with those in the union contracts. The makeup of the board has changed somewhat since then, with several new members being appointed by Mr. Fitzgerald. Mr. Ritchie said a memo announcing the raises was given to the Port Authority board on Jan. 25.

Mr. Ritchie said Port Authority police also recently got raises. At Friday's meeting, the board approved a 2.5 percent increase for the officers, retroactive to October 2012, because they had not received a raise since 2008.

Mr. Fitzgerald said even if the board received a memo about raises for the non-union employees on Jan. 25, the board had other, more complex issues to deal with, including considering the termination of Mr. Bland and the election of new board leadership.

He said a more appropriate time to provide raises for non-union employees would be July 2014, when Local 85 members get their raises.

"If we are going to be consistent and say the drivers and mechanics are getting that, then that would be the time that management would get that. Not a year and a half ahead of time," Mr. Fitzgerald said.

region - Transportation

Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com; 412-263-1590.


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