For most of my career, I’ve worked for employers that pay a base salary and then give performance-based bonuses on a quarterly basis. Sometimes, these bonuses were substantial, or so I thought. A property inspector employed by the NJ Turnpike Authority had a base salary of $73,469, but managed 2008 earnings of $321,985, exponentially better than I was ever able to achieve. How? Through a bizarre structure of bonus awards, given for such things as working holidays, working on your birthday, shoveling snow at toll plazas and even counting change in your booth at the end of a shift (for toll collectors, obviously). Turnpike employees also get perks like free EZ Pass toll transponders, scholarships for employee’s children, and “longevity bonuses” for staying beyond ten years. With perks like this, who’d want to quit?
Workers also enjoy paid vacation and sick leave, and the Turnpike Authority funds their medical insurance as well. The Authority could have saved up to $8.8 million by adopting the state’s health benefit plan, but they opted to retain their own health insurance. Besides, what’s $8.8 million when you spend over $30 million on employees bonuses per year?
Anyone who’s even drive the NJ Turnpike knows these facts: the toll collectors are all plagued with anti-social personality disorders, the rest areas are generally no cleaner than a landfill and the road itself, like all roads in NJ, is lined with trash. Instead of wasting $43 million per year on excessive bonuses and perks, imagine if that money was spent training employees in customer service, maintaining rest areas or even on roadside litter removal (which shouldn’t cost much if you give the job to state prisoners)?
It looks like the union workers gravy train days are over, since all ten contracts expire in 2011. In light of the fact that NJ’s governor has made it his top priority to end wasteful spending at the Turnpike Authority, it’s not likely that toll collectors will continue to make salaries comparable to lawyers and doctors. On the plus side, there may be opportunities out west for former Turnpike Authority executives: I hear the city of Bell, California just cleaned house, so maybe you can show them how padding income is really done.
Source: MyFoxNY and The Newspaper