The company that will start operating the Casco Bay Bridge on March 1 is advertising its personnel needs on Craigslist with an ad that says “no experience required.”

While the union representing the state bridge workers who are being replaced is drawing attention to the online ad that Florida Drawbridges, Inc. posted recently, the company’s executives say they will provide training and pay experienced operators more than they have been paid by the state.

The Florida-based company’s chief executive officer said Friday that it already has offered jobs to some of the current operators of the busy bridge connecting Portland and South Portland that carries roughly 32,000 vehicles a day.

“There’s a lot of good people,” said Laura Porter, CEO of Florida Drawbridges. “Some retired, and they weren’t all interested in positions. Some are still in negotiations.”

Pay for the part-time jobs starts at $12 an hour. Porter wouldn’t disclose the pay scale for experienced operators, but said it will be higher than what the state bridge operators were paid. According to 2014 state payroll data, Maine Department of Transportation bridge operators earned $25,000 and $33,000 a year.

The Department of Transportation announced in December that it had awarded the five-year, $3.8 million contract to operate and maintain the Casco Bay Bridge to FDI Services, which does business as Florida Drawbridges, Inc. It’s the first time the state has turned over bridge operations to a private firm.

The Maine State Employees Association SEIU Local 1989 has fought the change. Some Maine lawmakers on the committee that oversees transportation policy also objected, saying the transportation department should have explained its decision to lawmakers before moving forward with a significant policy change.

“(Florida Drawbridges, Inc.) is now advertising on Craigslist for “part-time” bridge operators. And get this: ‘NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED,'” the union wrote on its Facebook page, tagging it with the hashtag “#NoExperienceRequired.” Other labor organizations and followers have repeated the post on social media.

Porter said the company placed its ad on Craigslist and at local colleges and universities. It is “standard” to point out that no experience is required, she said.

“We have a complete training program. You don’t have to have experience operating a drawbridge,” Porter said.

The jobs are offered as part-time work, with multiple employees working three or four shifts per week. The shifts are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 4 p.m. to midnight and midnight to 8 a.m.

She said training for new hires will begin in February.

Mary Anne Turowski, director of politics and legislation for the Maine State Employees Association, said while Florida Drawbridges may pay workers more than the state, state employees get additional benefits including health insurance, retirement benefits and guaranteed vacation and sick time.

The state has acknowledged that privatizing the bridge operations won’t result in a direct savings. But officials say the change will allow the transportation department to reallocate eight of the nine state positions now dedicated to Casco Bay Bridge operations to other transportation work, primarily bridge and road maintenance. That will produce savings elsewhere and allow for more road work to be done in a timely manner, said Dale Doughty, the transportation department’s director of maintenance and operations.

Florida Drawbridges will provide the same service as the state, with two-person crews operating the bridge around the clock and doing light maintenance. The state will continue to have an on-site supervisor at the bridge, and will handle heavy maintenance and structural work.

The company also will use the same procedures at the bridge, provide the same training that current bridge employees have and follow all of the same emergency plans.

Porter said Florida Drawbridges will provide two to three weeks of training, including eight hours of classroom training and instruction about Coast Guard and state regulations regarding drawbridges and safe operating procedures.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

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