Non-union SSA workers getting a pay bump

The Steamship Authority is still under negotiations with labor unions for a contract.

The pay bump for non-union SSA workers will depend on the wage agreements the ferry line makes with labor unions. —Eunki Seonwoo

As negotiations continue between the Steamship Authority (SSA) and multiple labor unions, the ferry line’s board approved a pay bump for non-union workers. 

On June 20, the SSA board unanimously approved a 5 percent increase for the roughly 100 non-union staff members as a token of its appreciation, as well as to keep the ferry line competitive with other businesses in the region. 

The wage increase for non-union workers is contingent on a contract agreement with the labor unions, and could increase depending on the contract negotiations. If the average of the union wage bumps results in an 8 percent increase, then non-union wages will be increased by an additional 3 percent on top of the 5 percent increase, to also add up to an 8 percent increase. 

The decision came on the same day the board entered into executive session to discuss the ongoing negotiations with the labor unions Teamsters Local 59, SEIU Local 888, and MEBA’s District No. 1 PCD. During the contract dispute, some Steamship staff have said that long hours they endure are making it difficult to attract and retain workers.

Thursday’s vote also gives workers an option for some employees to forgo their fourth week of vacation in exchange for pay. 

Typically, pay adjustments for non-union staff occur annually on July 1, based on the outcome of yearly performance evaluations.

Steamship general manager Bob Davis told board members that the proposed pay increase was based on an annual survey in 2023 provided by Willis Towers Watson, an advisory firm specializing in employee compensation and benefits. He also said SSA staff consulted with various organizations and municipalities for information regarding pay increases, which usually resulted in increases between 4.5 percent and 5 percent. 

Some members of the board, namely Martha’s Vineyard representative Jim Malkin and Falmouth representative Peter Jeffrey, had concerns about the proposed increase.

“The concern I have is … setting something in stone now for our non-union people when we haven’t finished what we’re doing with our union people,” Malkin said. 

Malkin also described a schism among employees at the SSA, such as “union versus non-union,” and work culture differences between marine and shoreside personnel. 

Additionally, board members wanted data that was based on the region; Willis Towers Watson’s information was based on national labor trends and survey respondents. 

“The labor market in Mobile, Ala., is going to be very different from the Cape and Islands,” Jeffrey said. “We don’t have to explain to anyone here the cost of living and [how] it’s been increasing.” 

Davis noted that non-union workers had gone without a pay increase in 2020, while unionized employees received pay bumps. 

“The non-union group, it’s not just the administrative staff,” Davis said. “It’s the terminal managers, agents, parking lot managers, supervisors, and things like that.”

Despite their concerns, Malkin and Jeffrey ultimately came around to giving the wage increases to non-union workers. They wanted increases to reflect the ferry line’s appreciation for the workers, particularly to retain mid-level and lower-level managers, and to make the SSA an attractive workplace for young people to stay for the long run. 

Jeffrey made the motion, which was unanimously passed, saying there needs to be “equity across staff” for wage increases. 

In executive session, the board also discussed the SSA’s contract with general manager Bob Davis. Davis’ three-year contract ends in the summer of 2025, and the Steamship board needs to provide him notice a year ahead of time if they do not plan to renew the contract. 

Davis received mixed results during a review by the SSA board and the Port Council last September, with some giving near-failing grades, while others were near 100 percent.


Comments are closed.