The TTC is up and running as the talks with two big unions remain on track at a Richmond Hill hotel.

But whatever happens in the negotiations, it seems likely those who toil for the Red Rocket are in for a raise. Whether that will eventually translate into yet another fare hike is still to be determined. But if it does, expect the public outcry to be backed by a stunning new fact: the revelation that a TTC collector earned $100,000 by working more than 1,000 hours of overtime last year.

Candido Barreiro (top left) earned his keep by volunteering to take the extra shifts and the fact a man who would normally pull down just $54,000 annually was so well rewarded for his efforts came as a shock to most riders.

It’s not that they don’t think the employee, who it would appear practically lives inside the booth at the Bay subway station, didn’t deserve to be paid for his time. But with the TTC constantly crying poor and passengers always being asked to shell out more and more, many are wondering if the system’s users are being taken for a different kind of ride.

TTC Chair Adam Giambrone admits it seems a bit extreme at first glance but adds it’s not really that odd when you examine the numbers.

“The TTC has 12,000 employees,” he notes. “Those are people doing all different nature of jobs and there are I think 388 people who earned over $100,000. Now we also have engineers, lawyers, the whole gamut of different professions. So that works out to be just over 3 per cent of the TTC workforce who made over $100,000, which means 97 per cent  made less.”

Giambrone claims the city loves people like Barreiro because not everyone wants to work the extra hours and filling those shifts might otherwise be a problem. And he did it willingly.

“At some point, if you have a ton of overtime, you should go out and hire some more people,” he explains. “So instead of paying them at time and a half, which is usually the starting point for overtime, you should be paying them their regular salary because that’s cheaper.

“But at some point if you only have a certain number of hours it doesn’t make sense to go out and hire a whole another ten or 100 more people. You should just pay a few extra dollars to get the work done. So it’s a balancing [act].”

He points out the total amount of O.T. at the Red Rocket is under $20 million out of a salary base of $1.2 billion, which he calls a “small number.”

But that small number became a bit larger on Tuesday, when the Ontario government released its so-called ” Sunshine List,” which revealed some 400 TTC employees are above that 100-grand threshold.

What do riders who help pay that salary think of all this? They seem split on the issue.

“It’s not fair, is it?” fumes one.

But not everyone agrees. “We can afford to pay them that,” counters another. “If you want good service, you are to pay.”

Amalgamated Transit Union President Bob Kinnear claims it’s a sign of bloated management more than a problem with his members. “I think that … the city itself and the TTC [need to] look at some of the earnings of some of the upper managers. There’s four or five of them that are making over $200,000 a year, and hundreds of them that are making in the $170, $180,000 area, based on a 40-hour week.”

He’s positive about that – but not quite so sure about how the strike talks are going.

“Well, right now currently today, I don’t think we’re very close at all,” he admits. “We are having a lot of issues regarding language and cleanup of language, and like I say, the discussions so far have been very slow, sometimes frustrating.”

The union has promised 48 hours notice before any walkout, and it could still happen sooner than later. The strike deadline passed on Tuesday but as long as some progress is being made, negotiations will continue. Expectations are they may go on for at least another week.