THE MBTA gave $1,000 bonuses in September to 400 nonunion employees in recognition of their service during the pandemic.
The bonuses were approved by MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak and handed out with no public fanfare. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation board, which at the time was directly overseeing the T, did not vote on the bonuses. Neither Poftak nor Deputy General Manager Jeffrey Gonneville received the bonus.
CommonWealth discovered the extra pay when it checked the state comptroller’s website to see if pandemic bonuses given to other state employees were also given to workers at the transit authority.
T spokesman Joe Pesaturo called the $1,000 payments “modest” in an email.
“While non-union employees comprise a small portion of the MBTA’s entire workforce, they perform vital functions that are critical to keeping the transit system operating,” he said.
Pesaturo said the T’s nonunion employees have received two wage increases in the last six years, while unionized workers have received general wage increases each year. Union workers tend to fill frontline jobs that cannot be done remotely, while many nonunion workers are able to work from home. Asked if union members will receive pandemic bonuses, Pesaturo said contract negotiations with the unions are ongoing.
Most of the other state authorities have not given their employees pandemic bonuses. Officials at the Massachusetts Port Authority, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, the Massachusetts Life Science Center, the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, and the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency said their workers did not receive pandemic bonuses.
A spokesman for MassDevelopment said the authority did give a one-time, tax-free payment of $250 to each of its employees, including executives, for “disaster relief expenses” they incurred as a result of the pandemic.
The Baker administration during the summer negotiated agreements with a series of unions to give thousands of state employees COVID bonuses of $1,000 to $2,000. Those agreements were not announced publicly.
The Massachusetts House has proposed using roughly $460 million in federal relief funds to give $500 to $2,000 to low-income workers in the public and private sector who showed up for work “in person and not in a remote setting” during the state’s 16-month COVID-19 state of emergency. The Senate has approved similar legislation.