Fact Check: “Management Bonuses”

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The union representing most of TriMet’s employees today sent out a false and misleading news release about some non-union salaries. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) claimed that TriMet had given “Management Bonuses.” Here are the facts:

Fact: TriMet does not pay bonuses of any kind. None of the amounts listed in the ATU news release is a bonus payment. Additionally non-union employees did not receive an across-the-board wage increase in Fiscal Year 2013-14 budget. If an employee was promoted to a new position or increased responsibility, they were compensated to match those new responsibilities.

Claim: “We looked at what was budgeted for each position and then listed those who received bonuses that exceeded the budgeted amount.”   

Fact: Rather than inquire as to what the budget documents actually reflect, the ATU would rather circulate false and misleading information in an effort to distract from the real contract negotiation issues, active and retiree healthcare benefits.

Like many organizations, TriMet allows all non-union employees the opportunity to take unused vacation as taxable wages, either upon separation of employment or annually, as defined by policy and compliance with IRS regulations. The budget has to reflect that taxable income, which is separate from base salary.

Claim: “…the Union is discovering that TriMet management’s financial numbers are manipulated, misleading and seriously inflated.” 

Fact: TriMet budgets are reviewed annually by an outside audit firm. Additionally, the recent Secretary of State’s audit reaffirms the agency’s concern with retiree healthcare benefits, stating that “the most serious and looming concerns” relates to the cost of health care benefits and the $852 million unfunded liability for retiree health care. TriMet is working to reform these benefits through contract negotiations to be in line with peer agencies.

Unused employee vacation hours left on TriMet’s books are an accrued liability.  Generally speaking, it’s preferable for an organization to minimize its accrued liabilities, which is one of the reasons TriMet allows employees to take unused vacation hours as taxable income annually as an alternative to taking it all upon separation. Union employees also are paid their unused vacation upon separation.

The  bottom line: We’re working to realign our cost structure to be financially sustainable for the long-term to meet transit demands, while providing quality benefits to our employees and retirees.