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Don't be shocked when state has no workers

Posted: Tuesday, October 09, 2007

As an 18-year employee of the state of Alaska, I read the Empire's Oct. 5 article, "State steps up efforts to keep, find workers," with great interest. I was eager to find out what rhetoric the state would use to sidestep the real issues of dealing with lousy pay and its pathetic Tier IV retirement system.

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Fortunately, I didn't have to read too far into the article to find out the state of Alaska's visionary approach to dealing with the problem. They are going to (drum roll please) lower their standards. Boy, that should instill confidence that our state government is going after the best and the brightest to serve the people of Alaska. Annette Kreitzer, the commissioner of the Department of Administration, in a recent press release said "We value state employees and want the state to be an employer of choice." And yet, in regard to recruiting and retaining state employees, she comes right out in the Oct. 5 article and says, "The first obvious answer - more money - probably isn't going to be possible." Let me translate this double speak for you - the state isn't interested in dealing with the real problem, but they are interested in pursuing Band-Aid approaches that don't cost anything while simultaneously making it look like they are doing something.

That fact that they won't really solve the problem is irrelevant. After all, what really matters is if they are making a concerted effort to deal with the problem, perhaps the citizens of Alaska will give the state a pass when it comes time to explain why the services they get from the state are in a shambles. Meanwhile, state employees will continue to leave their jobs in droves. In the state employee contract negotiations three years ago, the state said it couldn't pay state employees more money because oil prices were down. Now that prices are booming, they say they can't pay state employees more because oil prices are projected to go down in the future.

Let's face it, there's always going to be some excuse. If they can't afford to raise state employees' wages now, then there never will be a good time to do it. Don't worry, we're getting the message from the state loud and clear - they just don't care about us. In a few years, the full impact of the state's short sightedness will be evident, the state will still be hemorrhaging employees and will probably have to resort to begging employees to stay. However, the state shouldn't be surprised if the response they get from employees is, "The first obvious answer - me staying - probably isn't going to be possible.

John Carlile

Juneau



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