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WRTA administrator gets new contract.

Byline: Lee Hammel

WORCESTER - The Worcester Regional Transit Authority and its administrator have reached an agreement on a 39-month contract.

Stephen F. O'Neil, who has been working under contract extensions since his original three-year contract ran out March 30, 2010, agreed to a 3 percent pay raise effective April 1; a 2 percent raise July 1; no raise next year; and 2 percent raise July 1, 2013. By the end of the contract, the $7,295 increase will give him a salary of $109,295, Dennis J. Lipka, WRTA personnel chairman, said Monday.

While that 7.2-percent increase is a 2.2-percent annual raise over 39 months, WRTA Chairman William J. Lehtola of Spencer points out that Mr. O'Neil voluntarily took no raise for two years before this contract. That would make the annual increase 1.4 percent over 5-1/4 years.

Mr. Lehtola called it "a very fair contract, considering the economic conditions we're in." He said the board considered increases that Amalgamated Transit Union Local 22 got, saying they are "almost identical" to Mr. O'Neil's.

Christopher W. Bruce, Local 22 business agent, said Mr. O'Neil got more than the bus drivers, mechanics and other members of his union, who got 1 percent raises for the year beginning June 30, 2010, and 1.5 percent next fiscal year, plus a $1,000 signing bonus. He said the pay raise is all but wiped out by the increase in health insurance premiums, from 13 percent to 25 percent by the end of the two-year contract.

While WRTA nonunion employees have long paid 25 percent of their insurance premiums, he said union members made sacrifices to keep their insurance premiums lower. Still, Mr. Bruce said, Mr. O'Neil's contract will have less of an impact on contract bargaining next year than the failure of state officials to deliver promised increased transportation aid.

A lack of resources has forced the WRTA to pay Mr. O'Neil at below the median level of other Massachusetts regional transit authority administrators, most of whom Mr. Lipka said have fewer responsibilities than Mr. O'Neil.

The WRTA also increased Mr. O'Neil's vacation time by a week, to four weeks, and raised its contribution to his 401(k) plan from 7 percent to 8 percent, Mr. Lipka said.

Mr. Lipka, of Holden, praised Mr. O'Neil, who he said has done a good job and will be overseeing $57 million in capital spending on a new transportation hub at Union Station, a new garage on Quinsigamond Avenue and new equipment.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Mr. O'Neil
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Title Annotation:MONEY
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 23, 2011
Words:424
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