In Our View: Cozy contract at C-Tran

New deal for supervisors, analysts is the type rarely seen in private sector

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Many taxpayers who learn about the new contract for C-Tran's supervisors and analysts will quickly ask two questions:

  1. "Did C-Tran's board of directors forget their own cries of financial desperation in 2011, before voters approved a sales tax increase to prevent massive cuts in routes and services?" (It sure looks that way.)
  2. "Can I become a C-Tran supervisor or analyst?" (The new contract has raises ranging from 4.7 percent to 5.3 percent for each of the next two years, with increases negotiated the next two years.)

On Tuesday, directors approved (by a 6-3 vote) a four-year contract for the 22 employees. Effective Feb. 1, annual salaries now range from about $61,000 to $73,600 for supervisors and $41,000 to $65,000 for analysts.

And the (government) beat goes on.

In addition to compensation increases far exceeding what's seen in the private sector, the new contract carries lavish benefits about which the average taxpayer can only dream. Start with 10 paid holidays, much more than what many nonunion companies provide. Then add 95 percent employer-paid health care for union members and their dependents (about one-fifth the percentage contribution that many nonunion workers must pay). Then add annual vacations ranging from three-plus weeks to six-plus weeks, depending on experience.

Those benefits were described by Clark County Commissioner David Madore in an online comment beneath a Thursday Columbian story by Eric Florip. Madore was one of the three C-Tran directors who properly voted against the new contract. His wisdom was shared by Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke and Washougal City Council member Connie Jo Freeman.

Madore was quick (and correct) also to point out: "The good people at C-Tran work hard and are appreciated." But his online comment also pointed to another C-Tran benefit: "automatic pay increases every year regardless of performance." In other words, whether you do your job spectacularly or only meet minimum standards to avoid getting fired, you'll be rewarded the same.

Again, the (government) beat goes on.

Voting for the contract were Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, Vancouver City Council members Bart Hansen and Larry Smith, Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow and Battle Ground City Council member Bill Ganley.

Members of the newly formed analyst/supervisor group (represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757) will predictably criticize our description of their new contract as lavish. They will complain that they hadn't received a pay increase since January 2009. Neither have untold thousands of local taxpayers who are lucky enough to still have a job.

They'll point out that the percentage increases include both cost-of-living adjustments and step increases. To which we respond the same way: Many people who help pay C-Tran salaries cannot fathom the luxury of a COLA or a step increase.

They'll remind us that they're only a small group, whereas the bus drivers' union is much bigger. True, but the bus drivers are making full-time salaries of $37,600 to $49,000 annually (plus elaborate benefits). They're also negotiating a new contract, with no progress in sight in those negotiations.

Last year, voters turned down C-Tran's request for a sales-tax increase to pay for light-rail maintenance and operation, plus a proposed bus rapid transit line. Cozy contracts sailing through a 6-3 approval is an ineffective way to regain that public confidence.