Saturday, 2:15 PM
MBTA Chief downplays disagreement over raises
By Christopher Baxter, Globe Correspondent and Noah Bierman, Globe Staff
MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas today downplayed perceptions that he was locked in a dispute with Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, saying the decision to rescind a pay raise for the T's executive employees had not become a point of contention.
“The media attention caused the secretary and other [MBTA] board members to view the issue in a different light,” Grabauskas said of the raise in an interview today after a transit police graduation ceremony at Faneuil Hall. “It wasn’t a dispute. It was more of a reconsideration.”
Grabauskas granted the 9 percent pay hike, which took effect last week, to 273 employees not covered by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's union contracts, saying it matched an increase recently won by unions that had gone without one for three years.
On Tuesday, Cohen publicized a letter he sent Grabauskas urging him to rescind the raise for the MBTA's highest paid executives. The public rebuke got immediate action: Grabauskas canceled the raise for all nonunion employees except those making less than $70,000 a year. They will receive a 3 percent pay increase at the suggestion of Cohen, who is also chairman of the MBTA board.
Grabauskas said today that employees were “disappointed" he rescinded the raise, which was criticized as excessive for an agency struggling to pay its bills.
“I do understand the importance of symbolism,” Grabauskas said. “But I still believe it is a matter of fairness for nonunion employees.”
Grabauskas, who makes $255,000, also said he would decline a $10,000 cost-of-living increase due under his contract this year. The MBTA's general counsel, William Mitchell, who makes $157,000, is also declining a cost-of-living raise of about $6,000, according to the T.
Grabauskas, as general manager, has the authority to unilaterally set pay for executive employees.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority carries an $8.2 billion debt load and is struggling to keep a balanced budget. Earlier this month, Grabauskas warned of a substantial fare increase on subways, buses, and trains in 2010 unless he receives help with the debt from the Legislature.
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