Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman.

TransLink defends growth of ‘six-figure club’

Overtime main reason more employees earned $100,000-plus, Metro Vancouver transportation agency says

TransLink is under fire from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for a 21-per-cent jump in what it calls the transportation authority’s “six-figure club” of staff earning more than $100,000 a year.

The CTF said it combed through TransLink’s latest financial disclosures and found 524 employees with six-figure earnings, up from 434 in 2013.

“It’s a pretty hefty one-year jump,” said CTF B.C. director Jordan Bateman, who led the No campaign that defeated the regional plebiscite on a proposed sales tax hike to fund a major transit expansion.

“This comes at a time when they were demanding a tax increase and crying poor and all these horrible things are happening in TransLink operations because they don’t have enough money.”

But TransLink spokesperson Colleen Brennan accused Bateman of “cherry picking” the numbers by focusing solely on the increase in staff that crossed the $100,000 threshold.

The 524 six-figure earners represent less than 10 per cent of TransLink’s total of 6,700 employees.

Overtime costs to call in front-line employees during incidents like major SkyTrain malfunctions and storms were the primary reason more staff collected $100,000 or more last year, Brennan said.

“Any time there’s a service disruption we have to bring in extra resources, put on buses and call in extra people to get them to work,” Brennan said.

Staff pay increases negotiated with unions were another factor lifting salaries.

But she insisted those have been modest, senior executive salaries have been frozen and the use of overtime was largely unavoidable.

“If you look at the total salary costs all across TransLink, it’s up around 3.9 per cent overall,” Brennan said. “We are watching every dollar very, very carefully.”

The disclosures show 57 of the $100,000-plus earners are Transit Police officers.

The CTF has repeatedly denounced the force as too expensive and called for it to be scrapped.

Bateman said TransLink continues to miss opportunities to contain costs, adding it could have held the line with unions in contract talks.

“They negotiated those contracts. Nobody holds a gun to anyone’s head.”