MARTA hopes to raise employee morale by offering interest-free payments on goods, services

By David Pendered

After years of squeezing employees to help balance its budget, MARTA hopes to boost morale by offering a benefits program with interest-free payments, via a payroll deduction plan, on purchases ranging from legal services to computers.

MARTA train with downtown skyline

MARTA intends to offer a voluntary benefits program in order to boost employee moral. Qualified employees are to have access to free-interest payments on certain goods and services, and pay via payroll deductions. Credit: wikipedia.org

The program is being ramped up as MARTA’s leadership has implemented of a number of cost-saving measures, some of them in the face of strong opposition from some employees.

Some jobs have been outsourced, personnel costs were reduced as rail and bus service was reduced, and wages were frozen. These changes came in the footsteps of a 2012 management audit that showed MARTA would exhaust its reserve funds by 2018 unless steps were taken to reduce expenses.

With the fiscal outlook stabilized, MARTA is turning to one of the nation’s fastest-growing types of voluntary benefits programs in order to raise morale.

The advantage of these programs for employers is the ability to offer current and potential employees a benefit that doesn’t cost the company money or administrative hassle, according to one contractor, McGrath Affinity. For employees, the benefit is access to a source of credit, typically free for 12 months, that doesn’t require a background check or a ding on a credit score for submitting an application for credit.

Credit limits typically are based on salary and tenure with the company, typically a minimum of six to 12 months, according to McGrath Affinity’s website.

MARTA issued a request for proposals July 6 stating MARTA’s intent to:

  • “Provide its employees with a disciplined way to purchase products and services, interest-free, through a simple payroll deduction plan. The program will include products and services in the following fields: employee purchasing services (including goods, services, vacations, educational courses, and trainings), legal services, and insurance coverages (including long term care and final expenses, and pet & animal care).

MARTA has built a number of self-protection clauses into its RFP.

Keith Parker

MARTA GM/CEO Keith Parker

For instance, MARTA specifies that it is not responsible for any unresolved payments between the contractor and employee.

MARTA won’t mediate any disputes, because its only sole responsibility will be, “management and administration of the payroll deduction process and for reviewing and approving communication materials.”

If a situation compels MARTA to intervene, the contractor will pay MARTA an administrative fee to resolve disputes. None of the fee will be passed on to a MARTA employee.

MARTA plans to give the program a three-year try-out. Depending how things work out, MARTA can terminate the contract early or extend it for two, one-year extensions.

MARTA has identified four types of goods and services that it wants offer eligible employees. MARTA is willing to hire one or more contractors for the four categories of benefits to be offered.

The deadline for responses to the RFP was extended to Aug. 22, from the original deadline of Aug. 6. MARTA hosted a pre-proposal conference July 16.

Here’s a full description of each benefits category, as outlined in a MARTA document:

  1. “Employee Purchasing Program. The Contractor, under this component, will provide MARTA employees with the ability to purchase products and services including, but not limited to electronic equipment, computers, vacation planning and traveling services, and household products. The Contractor must be able to provide or have access to a host of interest-free products and/or services that MARTA employees will be able to purchase through payroll deduction.
  2. “Prepaid Legal Services. The Contractor, under this component, will provide MARTA employees with the ability to purchase legal services including, but not limited to wills, trusts, estate administration and other pre-paid legal services by attorneys licensed to practice in the State of
  3. “Insurance Services (Long Term Care & Final Expenses). The Contractor, under this component, will provide MARTA employees with the ability to purchase various types of insurance services/coverages including, but not limited, to final expense medical services, funeral costs.
  4. “Insurance Services (Pet and Animal Care). The Contractor, under this component, will provide MARTA employees with comprehensive, every day and/or emergency insurance coverages for their pets and animals.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

4 replies
  1. JoeInAtlanta says:

    I’m glad to see MARTA taking steps (albeit small ones in this case) on behalf of its employees. As a MARTA rider, I know that the system depends on hiring and retaining good people. But one of the problems with the system is that several years without pay raises, and a constant threat of layoffs, have cost the agency many of its best people, and left it with an unhealthy percentage of uncaring, unmotivated workers (whom department heads are afraid to fire because they are uncertain they’ll be allowed to hire a replacement).

    To be clear, MARTA has managed to hire and retain some very good people through these bad years — but the ratio of good to bad is off because MARTA’s previous general manager treated employees like an expense rather than an investment.Report

    Reply
  2. MARTAlabor says:

    JoeInAtlanta Huh? So you think the recession was Dr. Scotts initiative? MARTA pays very low except for the senior management which does get increases and paid higher than industry average. This RFP is just another way for a company that wins the RFP to make money off the taxpayers and first tiered workers. The interest rate can be zero but the price will be retail plus. Former worker at MARTA (I left for more money and no raises for 5 years!), and know a lot the public doesn’t about the subject.Report

    Reply
  3. JoeInAtlanta says:

    MARTAlabor It sounds like you’re confronting me in your first sentence and agreeing with me in the rest of them. I’m having trouble understanding your perspective.Report

    Reply
  4. PeggyPowellDobbins says:

    I think it’s a good idea. I also think the employees should have some say in picking what benefits they get from MARTA group buying. Their union should be asked to elect representatives to the mgmt committee deciding, and maybe also vote ranking their priorities at a union meeting.Report

    Reply

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