Port Authority recruits drivers to fill retirement void
Port Authority of Allegheny County is hiring more than a dozen bus drivers this month and recruiting dozens more to keep pace with retirements, the transit agency said.
Financial uncertainty surrounding Port Authority and labor concessions affecting hires make it harder to attract drivers, according to a union official.
“I'm not sure everyone is jumping in line to come work for Port Authority,” said Steve Palonis, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, which represents 1,300 drivers.
Palonis said 16 people will be hired and will begin a 10-week driver training program in two weeks to fill vacancies that recent retirements created. They will make $10 an hour during training. After they're trained, their wages will jump to $17.06 an hour, the equivalent of $34,120 a year for drivers who work 40-hour weeks.
Port Authority spokeswoman Heather Pharo said the agency placed some of this month's hires on a waiting list as much as three years ago. Port Authority maintains a pool of driver recruits so it can fill vacancies quickly when needed. All had to pass preliminary entrance tests.
In recent years, however, Port Authority has recalled laid-off drivers to fill vacancies, including about 100 last year to maintain staffing levels as a wave of retirements occurred. Many drivers opted to retire before officials completed negotiations on a new, four-year contract that included a projected $60 million in concessions. That depleted the furlough list.
Several concessions in the contract will affect hires, including an 18-month wage freeze and the elimination of lifetime health care coverage. The contract guarantees coverage for no longer than three years after retirement.
On the flip side, new hires will be eligible for pensions. In recent years, Port Authority changed pension plans for its nonunion workers, police and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers employees to 401(k)-style plans.
Palonis said three major layoffs occurred between 2005 and 2011, and more layoffs could occur if the state does not increase funding to the agency.
“Could that have an adverse effect on hiring? Definitely,” Palonis said.
Palonis hopes increased state funding this year will erase would-be workers' concerns and that the agency will beef up transit service and staffing in years to come. Port Authority operates about 100 bus, light-rail and incline routes today, down from more than 200 just five years ago.
Pharo said Port Authority is looking to place 40 to 50 new people on its driver waiting list.
According to an online job posting, Port Authority seeks applicants who are at least 21 and have a valid driver's license and a high school diploma or GED. Those without a commercial driver's license will earn one during the agency's training program.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Beloved North Side gardener gets new truck, paid for by her neighbors
- Pipelines key to growth in shale industry
- Beaver County man arrested in 24-year-old Clinton County cold case
- Woman, 77, dies in Monroeville house fire
- NTSB: Better oversight needed to prevent natural gas pipeline accidents
- New Turnpike Chairman Sean Logan institutes Wolf’s gift ban at commission
- Uber gains PUC approval to operate in most of Pa. for 2 years
- Propel school sends students home because of phone threat
- PennDOT says inbound Fort Pitt Tunnel will close around-the-clock this weekend
- Long-term solution for wastewater disposal eludes shale gas industry
- Pa. police departments worry order on criminal seizures hurts bottom line