State should give its employees fair pay

Posted: Monday, October 08, 2007

The Administration's working group on recruitment and retention of state employees is looking for new ways of dealing with the problem. Real pay raises is a new way to address the problem.

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In the last 15 years of employment with the state of Alaska, I have not seen a pay raise. Classified employees have managed to pry a few percentage points out of past administrations. However, those increases have never kept up with the cost of living. The reason was always that we don't have the funds. It is unfathomable, with oil prices higher than $80 a barrel and the University of Alaska only raising tuition 5 percent this year as a favor to students, that an increase in the salary schedules for all classified employees is not being considered a prudent solution.

With vacancy rates greater than 20 percent in some divisions, the burden on employees is growing unmanageable. Lowering the qualifications for positions is not a cost-neutral or effective option. The positions I supervise require the ability to competently and professionally communicate, make decisions using good judgment, and attention to detail. Our education system is not producing individuals with critical thinking skills. Lowering qualifications to fill vacancies would only serve to create The State of Alaska Training Center for private sector Alaska. This is not cost effective.

I challenge the working group to take an honest and accurate look at the cost of hiring less-than-qualified individuals who may stay in a position for a year or less. Less skilled individuals may accept a lower starting wage, but the wage is not the true cost of employing the individual. The cost in lost production of a highly skilled employee who must train the new employee must be considered. The cost of over time for those who are being asked to do the work of two or three positions must also be considered.

If managers could offer trained workers a reasonable and living wage, services to Alaskans could be provided in a timely, professional manner. A career in public service would truly be a career, not just a training opportunity. You get what you pay for. The State of Washington has solved this problem by providing double digit raises to many of its public servants this year.

Gov. Palin, it is time to respect the hard working Alaskans who serve their fellow citizens everyday with fair pay.

Mary Graham


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