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November 15, 2011 | last updated December 2, 2011 6:00 pm

MTA, unions debate contract concessions

The new head of the Maine Turnpike Authority is asking unionized employees to accept concessions in a new contract, including halting annual wage increases and eliminating 100% employer-paid health benefits.

Executive Director Peter Mills told the Portland Press Herald the MTA is looking to cut costs when it renegotiates contracts for nearly 300 of its 462 workers. Cutting triple holiday pay and longevity bonuses is also on the table as the authority works to negotiate new contracts before Dec. 31. Pay would be frozen for two years, but would be allowed for the third year of the contract if union members agreed to other concessions. However, Brian Oelberg of the Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union told the paper that employees shouldn't be punished for mismanagement under former director Paul Violette, who resigned in March over questions of lavish spending. Since he became director, Mills has instituted a number of changes, including cutting travel spending and operating expenses, to rein in spending and boost financial transparency. Oelberg said employees are willing to make some concessions.

Mills told the paper the contract concessions are necessary to reduce an expected 25% toll increase in 2013.

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