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Article posted: 4/5/2013 3:58 PM

More pay raises on track for Metra staff?

By Marni Pyke

Several Metra directors said they disagree with the results of a compensation survey that recommended no raises for about 130 nonunion employees and have asked executives to go back to the drawing board.

In January, the board endorsed recommendations by Public Sector Personnel Consultants for salary increases ranging from less than 1 percent to 46 percent for 279 employees. More than half the raises were 10 percent or higher. The total cost for salary increases is $2.6 million. With pensions and payroll taxes added in, the tally is $3.6 million.

But not everyone got raises, which has led to some hurt feelings, directors said at a Friday committee meeting.

"When I read the study, I was disappointed senior members of the organization weren't getting compensated properly or got no compensation," Director Larry Huggins of Chicago said. "These hardworking men and women make the organization what it is."

"An organization is only as healthy as its internal staff's morale," Metra Director and Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder said, adding the agency needed to prioritize people "who feel pushed into a corner and forgotten."

Other problems with the study have emerged, including raises that bring some employees' salaries up to the level of their bosses or higher, administrators said. The consultants will go back and review those issues and also consider whether senior executives who were not included in the first round of the compensation study should get higher pay, Executive Director Alex Clifford said.

He noted that the report "was not about finding a way to give people raises," but was about "trying to ensure people are paid properly for the work they do." Metra is unique in that railroading expertise is difficult to find and the agency is facing a number of pending retirements, Clifford noted.

However, the pay raises drew criticism from some riders, smarting from recent fare hikes instituted in February 2012 and 2013.

Public Sector Personnel Consultants are working under a $100,000 contract.

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