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March 29, 2011

10

7.5 percent raises coming for 450 city employees

by Deena Winter

The Journal Star is reporting that the CIR rulling I wrote about earlier today will pave the way for a contract to be signed with a city employee union that will include 7.5 percent raises for that employee group.

The labor union is called the Public Association of Government Employees, or more commonly known as PAGE, and it represents more than 450 clerical, technical and blue-collar employees. So a nice raise is apparently on the way for those 450 employees, compliments of the state system of setting salaries — which requires the city to pay salaries that are commensurate with those employees’ peers in other comparable sized cities, regardless of the city’s financial health.

Now that the CIR has ruled on some issues PAGE had brought to them, I suppose the union and city can settle their labor agreement — and I believe Nancy HIcks is right, I’d heard that agreement called for like 8 percent raises (7.5 percent rounded up).

This is an example of the problem many people have with Nebraska’s salary-setting system: The city has a projected $6.3 million budget shortfall (plus $1.8 million we’re about to lose in state aid) and that’s not counting raises that will need to be given to most city employees — and yet the system doesn’t allow flexibility during hard times. Thus, the whole CIR debate in the Legislature.

Nancy’s story indicates the “compromise bill” that appears to be coming out of committee in the Legislature would require the CIR to also take into account retirement and health insurance benefits when deciding cases. I’m not sure that will solve this problem.

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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jeffrey Poley
    Mar 29 2011

    Deena:

    While I agree that our city along with many others is facing a difficult financial situation, I find it odd that we seek solutions at the expense of the lowest paid of our government employees, the clerical, technical and blue-collar employees. Your article doesn’t describe the details of the raises so It’s difficult to determine how these employees are going to receive all of this money. The article also doesn’t explain why employees of Lincoln lag so far behind comparable employees in the peer group of cities. Maybe we could find a way to pay our city employees a living wage if we stop providing vast subsidies to the inside dealers who manage to pry vast sums for themselves from the city treasury.

    Jeff…

    Reply
    • Roger C
      Mar 30 2011

      The ‘hitch’ of the CIR is that the “peer groups” that they compare to are cities that DO NOT compare to Lincoln in cost of living, e.g. the Chicago suburbs, Minn/St. Paul, St. Louis to name the most common ones. This is why some of these raises are so large, and why the CIR is going to be reformed in the Legislature.

      Reply
  2. Matthew Platte
    Mar 29 2011

    What Jeff said.

    What’s different now compared to, say, 2006 is the comparative lack of revenue. It’s not that the city employees are now, or were ever, overpaid – it’s that there is less money coming in. So of course there needs to be a scapegoat and this season it is public employees, union workers and — worst of all — unionized public employees.

    Reply
  3. Frequent Voter
    Mar 29 2011

    Jeffrey – if the city employees jobs are so deplorable and don’t even offer a living wage (your words, not mine) perhaps those folks should give notice and look for another job. Turn over of PAGE employees is quite low. Guess no one is being asked to descend into a mine shaft with no canary these days. And to whom are you referring as “inside dealers?” If they have absconded with vast sums, as you indicate, then an investigation should ensue. No one investigates as well as Deena Winter. Name names and Deena will get right on it!

    Matthew – you are exactly right. There is less money coming in to the city, therefore less money available to pay for goods and services. This lack of funds would include those for the biggest cost to any municipality: salaries and benefits. When you have less income at your house, you must look for ways to reduce spending like we do at our house. The city must do the same. City jobs are not entitlements.

    Reply
  4. Roberta
    Mar 30 2011

    Let’s keep bashing City employees and compare what they make with Mom and Pop type businesses instead of comprable businesses like Pfizer, Kawasaki, Assurity, Capellas, the Banks, Insurance companies, Duncan Aviation, Pepsi, Coke, LES, School Board, UNL etc. Places that have over 500 employees not 5-10 employees.

    Why does the City pay 350.00 and hr when they have 50.00 hr employees on staff? Why does the City continuelly hire consultants and pay 200 time the cost of doing it inhouse. Who is really getting rich here the City employees or the consultants or the polititions?

    Why was the gift policy weakened?

    Reply
  5. Jane H Kinsey
    Mar 30 2011

    OK, Citizens when are you going to step up and be counted? If you don’t make waves, the powers what be will do what they
    want. Businesses don’t like negative publicity and neither do public officials. If the City has to pay these wages, then it should not hire Brashear to negotiate with employees and take money from City coffers.

    Reply
  6. in the real
    Mar 30 2011

    A little left over tif money ought to cover this and it isn’t some company with a sky box. It will be spread out so all benefit that’s one for the families

    Reply
  7. DJ
    Mar 30 2011

    @Roger C. The vast majority of city employee wage comparisons are done from cities that are comparable to Lincoln in size and geography and also based on job duties. LFR, due to their specific job duties, ie: Ambulance service, gets compared to cities that are farther away and bigger, Minneapolis or Cleveland for example. Unfortunately this is held up as being the common practice among all citiy departments and it is not the case. Like it or not, ALL jobs, have some sort of comparison of wages based on the going market rate. An electrical engineer in Lincoln makes a rate comparable to an electrical engineer in Des Moines or Denver. If they didn’t there would be no competent engineer willing to be an electrical engineer in Lincoln. Do we want less from a city employee no matter what the job title? The CIR is not the bogeyman here. It exists to ensure employees are treated fairly by the governing entity in exchange for giving up the right to strike. How many times has the city or a labor union gone to the CIR in Lincoln in the last 20 years. Two cases I can recall, one decided for the members of LFR and one decided against PAGE, which by the way PAGE and the city had agreed to wages prior to going to CIR and fight was over other benefits as I understand the case.

    Reply
  8. DJ
    Mar 30 2011

    @Jane Kinsey…. ABSOLUTELY CORRECT! $50k for 4 weeks of work when there is already a staff, personnel director and compensation manager, in place getting a city wage for far less money to do the same thing. But it is the city employee to blame for breaking the bank? How many special assistants to the mayor are there?

    Reply
  9. JScott
    Mar 31 2011

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t this union pass up raises the last year or two, deferring them to this year? In other words, isn’t the seemingly-large raise they’re getting this year due to the fact they have allowed the city to pass on giving raises for some time?

    Reply

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