GRTC drives starting pay by 43 percent

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 4/20/2023, 6 p.m.
GRTC boosted starting pay for bus drivers by a whopping 43 percent, effective immediately, with double-digit increases for most current ...

GRTC boosted starting pay for bus drivers by a whopping 43 percent, effective immediately, with double-digit increases for most current drivers as well.

Seek- ing to end a persistent driver shortage, the transit company’s board endorsed CEO Sheryl Adams’ proposal to immediately jump starting pay from $17.43 an hour to $24.91 an hour, a $7.48 an hour increase that translates into $300 more in weekly wages.

As approved by the board, those who are in training will be paid $21.98 an hour for the first six months, or $879.20 per week before taxes. Once they leave probation status after six months, drivers will see an immediate increase of nearly $3 an hour, rising every six months. A GRTC chart shows that after 24 months, their pay will increase nearly $8 per hour to top pay.

Ms. Adams’ plan, as approved, increased top pay by $2.50 an hour to $29.41, a 9 percent increase, and cut the period for reaching the top of the pay range from five years to two years.

For those at top pay, the hike in the hourly rate represents a $5,228 increase in yearly pay for a 40-hour work week. The new pay rate means bus drivers will earn $61,200 a year before taxes. Before the pay hike, top pay was $26.91 an hour, translating to $55,972 annually before taxes for full-time drivers.

“My goal is to ensure we are a company that supports a strong quality of life for our employees while providing equitable transportation options for the region,” Ms. Adams said in announcing the pay boost.

The pay boost also impacts mechanics and other GRTC employees whom Local 1220 of the Amalgamated Transit Union represents. The pay boost is projected to cost GRTC $1.2 million in the current fiscal year that will end June 30, according to spokeswoman Ashley Mason.

The pay raise, though, does not affect Care Van drivers, who are now in contract negotiations with National Express Transit, which took over operation of GRTC’s paratransit operation in October. The company increased top pay around $2 an hour to $19.25 an hour then, according to the local.

GRTC Board President Tyrone E. Nelson said the approval of the new pay plan for the bus drivers reflects the board’s efforts to ensure that GRTC is making “the right business decisions that allow the company to remain competitive and provide reliable transportation for the region.”

GRTC, despite holding twice monthly trainings, continues to struggle to fill approximately 50 vacancies.

The company has set a goal of having 285 full-time drivers, but currently only has 234 full-time and 28 part-time drivers. While 16 people are in training, GRTC has been shedding drivers almost as fast, forcing the company to either reduce service or require remaining drivers to work overtime.

Local 1220 President Maurice A. Carter called the pay boost a clear win for employees, the company and for riders who depend on the service.

“We are proud that we were able to reach this agreement that supports our front line employees,” he said. “This is a step in the right direction to bring GRTC back to its glory days where front-line employees felt valued.”