Here’s What They Make

I caught some flak the other day about not mentioning unions as being one of the reasons the ferries system is having problems. Even when the ferries weren’t having the problems they are today, riders resented the amount of money ferry workers made. It’s no secret. You can easily find out what every individual makes if you’re at all capable with the Internet. It’s public information. I’m not saying they make too much. That’s up to you to determine. I will say that most of them make more than a reporter with a college degree and 25 years of experience. That probably has a more to do with stupidity on my part than anything else. Here’s a link right on the ferries Web site that tells you lots of stuff about these positions.
http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/99AB29B2-BFC7-482B-B29A-00A9B79A3D90/0/WSFFLEETEMPLOYEECOMPENSATION.pdf
I’ll summarize it a little.
Terminal attendants: $17.95
Ticket takers: $19.11
Ticket sellers: $21.74
Terminal supervisors: $31.28
Ordinary seamen: $19.11
Able-bodied seamen: $21.49
Second mate: $29.62
Chief mate: $33.16
Master: $42.50
Self master: $45.56
Relief master: $42.50
Wiper: $19.05
Oiler: $21.41
Assistant engineer: $26.78
Chief engineer: $37.39
Staff chief engineer: $39.07

13 thoughts on “Here’s What They Make

  1. The real problem driving costs is with management, and the capital programs, policy and priorities. For example, WSF spent a heck of a lot studying new terminals and ferries for PT-Keystone, before giving up after figuring it would cost about $1 billion to make the change, all for a route that serves about 3% of WSF ridership.

    There is also the question of why we need 300 people at WSF headquarters, including 150 or so designing ferries and terminals that never get built. The total number of workers is only about 1500.

    Then there is the policy of only building ferries in Washington State, which limits competition and adds a huge amount the final tab. The cost is maybe 50% more when you compare the cost of ferries for WSF to other ferry systems with real competition. The in-state policy also eliminates the possibility of federal funding because federal funding requires that ferries be put out to bid in the entire country.

    I could go on and on.

    So the big picture with costs is a problem with management and government, rather than labor. There is a somewhat higher hourly rates for the workers compared to non-union crews, but so what. WSF should design a more efficient system and vessels that require fewer crew and terminal attendants.

    Nels Sultan
    Kingston Express Association

  2. Ed,
    You have been soooooo nice in these blogs. I suspect it is tough to be a blog owner and a reporter that is supposed to be objective. Good luck with all of this. I am glad there is a forum. However, I don’t believe that this blog (without anonymity) will be as popular as the soundoffs.

  3. Ed, I have a college degree, a professional license (several in fact) and 30 years of sea going experience. I am the Staff Chief of the WSF ferry Puyallup. My pay is based on the pay of other Chief Engineers in the industry. You are supposed to be a journalist, your pay is based on the market for that industry. I think you are a pretty poor jounalist at that because your bias is influencing your reporting. If you ever want to exchange jobs for a day I would be glad to, you run the Puyallup for one 12 hour day (you could not even start the engines) and I would write an expose on how full of holes the concept of fast low wake wash ferries from Bremerton to Seattle is.

    What do you say we switch jobs for the day?

  4. Too bad your info is only over a year old. All WSF & it’s union contracts are available within the State of Washington website. That’s right Ed, old info from a outdated paper with nothing to write about but our wages. Yup again Ed, LIVING WAGE JOBS in every county in the state except King county. That means those Deckhands/Engineers/Mates that live in Kitsap county may own a home, drive a 2 cars & raise 2.3 children without being on state assistance or food stamps. They are also the same folks shopping @ the local shops, stores AND Lumberyards in our community.

  5. Mark, I and I’m sure most others don’t have a problem with what you’re making. You guys deserve it. But do you really think a ticket seller should be making $21.74 a hour? That’s just crazy, and way out of line compared to similar jobs in the private sector. Just think how expensive going to a movie would be if the Theater paid their ticket sellers $21 a hour. That and over staffing at headquarters is what must be changed.

  6. Ed,

    I don’t think the WSF union issue is with pay scales, per se. The problem is with unnecessary staffing positions that cannot be eliminated.

    For example, back when we had passenger-only service, one employee exchanged your ticket for a boarding pass, a second held out a bucket to receive the boarding pass and a third tied up the boat.

    Somebody at WSF did the math and eliminated the bucket-holders and let the deckhands hold the bucket (they were just standing there by then anyway), the union intervened. The bucket-holders were reinstated with back pay.

    Nothing personal against any of these folks, but the additional cost of a completely unnecessary position was mandated by the union and passed on to the passengers in increased fares.

    These are the kind of things that need to be straightened out, not the pay scales.

  7. Ron and Ed both make good points relative to the cost of labor. We all believe there are areas which could be improved upon and each in their own small way contribute to the overall health of the system.

    My point was more focused on the lack of professionalisim in the Friedrich headlines. If he had something that was newsworthy or contributed to the public’s understanding of the problems the WSF faces then he should make the point and represent the arguments which lead him to the point of the story.

    What he did however was try to yell fire in the movie theater. He did what the talking heads do on radio or tv.

    There alot of stories surrounding poor decision making that put WSF into this situation. So far I have seen little from the Sun in print that would indicate they retain any investigative reporting capacity. The Everett Herald looks like the New York Times by comparison.

    The sun should not be having it’s writers blogging, they should be researching and writting. t

  8. Thanks Ed…I appreciate your candor.

    It doesn’t make sense, does it?
    You’ll feel better when I tell you I recently saw an ad for postal workers…beginning pay $20/hour. Too bad our government has a tendency to pay well with taxpayer dollars and not hold anyone accountable.
    Not reporters though. They’re accountable to the owner of the publication and readers..
    Your job is among the world’s most important (communication) requiring years of expensive education. The time and dedication of your responsibility to the public should be among the highest-paid jobs.
    What is the training cost to collect tickets and how many years of training go into it?

    The Sun SHOULD have their reporters blogging, if they want to. Blogging is a direct line to the online reader’s point of view they wouldn’t have without it. The reporter’s blog brings news and information long before we would see it in print… and allows us to respond.
    If communication, knowledge and information is the blog goal for The Sun and reporters, you’re doing it….open communication between reporters and reader.. and why I take the time to ‘blog’.

    In my year of blogging I’ve learned more about the world we live in – people and issues – than I wanted to know.. or care about.
    Much of the new knowledge was a jolt surprising me that I was so unaware.

    Blogging reporters and the bloggers’ comments have been an education and I thank you all for this experience.

    I hope it continues.

    We’ve had bloggers respond from a position of knowledge, but not using their real name for whatever reason. I think we should allow people to comment anonymously …we need different viewpoints and we may not get the up close and personal to the issue bloggers now.

    Thank you, Ed and reporters, the Kitsap Sun and bloggers, for helping me understand my world better.
    Sharon O’Hara

  9. How can you know more about the world if that knowledge is simply based on the uninformed/biased opinions of reporters?

    You can develop an opinion from an opinion but you can’t develop knowledge from them.

    I bet you both shop at walmart.

  10. For heavens sake! All Ed did was report the actual wage rate (last year) of ferry employees. People who think that a Wiper should be paid $20 per hour should have no problem with that, after all it takes almost a week to learn how to be a Wiper, he should be paid a living wage even if is is more than the average college graduate makes.

  11. All Ed did was tell half of a story in order to provoke readers. If he was interested in telling the complete story he would have described the duties which include firefighting, confined space entry, rotating 12 hour shifts, cleaning sewage pipes, crawling through oily bilges, cleaning the insides of engines and a host of other factors which his compensation is set at. The notion that a college graduate should always be compensated at a higher rate of pay than trade workers is so antiquated.

    Ed is supposed to be a journalist, but what he was doing was simply trying to create animosity on the part of the public against the very people who are responsible for keeping them safe. Maybe you think your life is worth minimum wage but I think it is worth a lot more.

  12. Mark and others that work the engineering spaces on the ferries -

    There are hundresds of 20 year old kids locally available that do a heck of a lot more than the wipers and oilers (including P/S watchstanding, firefighting, cleaning, mx, PM, repairs, etc.) for a lot less – on ten nuclear powered ships that have less problems getting underway than the ferries.

    Don’t get full of yourselves. You are replaceable.

  13. We have a ton of those “kids” working within our ranks. The navy trains them at the cost of millions then pays them the equivalent of 8 dollars an hour. At WSF we pay them a living wage in the hopes they will keep their training and experience right here. We must be doing something right, our turn over is 2% per year, what is the navys?

    Some of our guys left the navy after retirement to come to WSF and others leave after the first or second hitch because they can’t raise a family on wages like that. They want to be home to raise their kids, they want to put down roots in a community and stay put. They want to buy a house and build their community. They want the American dream which can be so elusive when you are defending it.

    When they come to us at WSF we know they are smart at what they have been trained to do: Operate nuclear reactors, make ships sink and launch rockets at the Soviet Union.

    WSF has a different mission and as you might expect deploy different equipment. None of these navy guys can walk aboard and push the start button. They have alot to learn and unlearn at times. But since they are all smart, well educated and have proven themselves they are good guys to begin training to operate merchant vessels.

    At WSF they can usually start as Oilers if they pass the appropriate Coast Guard tests. They will only be allowed to take those tests if they have the right “rate” in the Navy. otherwise they start as Wipers.

    By passing their first test, most submariners can start off making three times what they made in the Navy. They will also have three times as much time at home. In fact they are home every day, have full medical and a retirement. They have job security, and a decent working environment.

    The WSF job is just a bit different than a Navy job in another way. There are never more than 2 Oilers on the biggest ferry in WSF while in the Navy there would be 100 to 200 sailors to keep the propellor turning. Because there are so few of us we all have to be specialists in multiple disciplines.

    If you are going to compare the cost of a sub crewman vs a WSF crewman you are coming up a little short. You need to compare sub payroll with the WSF payroll. Want to bet who will be lower cost. But again such a comparison is ridiculous because they are completely different machines and missions.

    On my boat there are just four engineering crewmembers on watch at a time. We do everything, switchboards, mechanical, electronics, casualty control, sanitary, sewage HVAC, painting, paperwork, inventory preventative maintenance and dozens of other tasks. We have no electricians, machinist mates ETs or any of the rest, we are alone. If something breaks one of us has to fix it.

    On my boat there is the Chief Engineer, which is myself, an 8 year naval reserve officer, my Assitant Engineering Officer who is also a qualified Chief Engineer and the two Oilers. One Oiler is a retired navy Diver and Chief Machinist Mate. The other Oiler is a female jr college graduate.

    The sub guys are great, they earn their stripes on the ferries the same way they did on their boats. They study the plant, learn the valves, the machinery and think ahead. And never never discharge the sewage over the side…those navy guys!

    Oh yes, maintenance. We run 16 to 20 hours per day year round. Almost all of our vital maintenance is done at night when we are out of service. Everything has to be put back together and running in time for the morning commute, that is not a date on the calender we are shooting for. My ship has not been out of service for any maintenance or repairs since 2006 except for a one day CG inspection.

    That is alot different than the subs but when your fleet is made up of ships built well before those 20 somethings were gleams in their grandfathers eyes….

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