Port Authority to trim benefits for employees

By ULA ILNYTZKY | March 29, 2012 | 4:05 PM EDT

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2012 file photo, Patrick Foye, Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, speaks at a meeting of the New York Building Congress in New York. The Port Authority plans to eliminate bonuses and other benefits for its nonunion employees, a move expected to save $41 million over the next 18 months, Foye said Thursday, March 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The agency that owns the World Trade Center, New York's airports and several bridges and tunnels will scale back benefits for its nonunion employees in a move expected to save $41 million over 18 months.

The governing board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved the cuts Thursday in response to an audit of the agency that was released last month. It also approved a reorganization of the authority's police force.

The audit ordered by the governors of New York and New Jersey had criticized the agency's organization and called its management "dysfunctional."

"These changes are painful and will represent pay cuts for many Port Authority employees," Executive Director Patrick Foye told the authority's Board of Commissioners. But Foye said Port Authority staffers still earn more than many other government employees.

The belt-tightening plan that the audit prompted will require nonunion workers to contribute more to the cost of their health care premiums. More than 2,000 employees would be affected.

Employees at the top of the Port Authority's pay scale will pay 35 percent of their health insurance premiums.

Employees will also lose an average of 5.3 vacation days, with some workers losing as many as 17.

The authority is also eliminating six bonus programs that had added tens of thousands of dollars to workers' paychecks.

The agency also will eliminated many of the free PATH train passes that are given to employees and retirees.

Board Chairman David Samson said Port Authority pay had been allowed to balloon over the decades.

"Our compensation structure is out of whack — it's unacceptable," he said.

The board also approved creating a new Chief Security Officer to oversee the Port Authority Police Department.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who was hired to review the police department, said the force suffered from too little coordination between the divisions at different airports, ports and buildings.

The Port Authority owns the World Trade Center site. It also operates and maintains a network of trade and transportation facilities, including the area's three major airports, six tunnels and bridges, marine terminals and ports, bus terminals and the World Trade Center.