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Objections discarded to make worthy state pay plan

Wisely, the State Civil Service Commission passed new standards regarding Louisiana classified civil service employees, over the objections of a few commentators. To understand the merit of the new regime, it is instructive to review it and the weakness of the complaints against it.

Slightly modified from a proposal rejected by Gov. Bobby Jindal earlier in the year, whose final approval must come to enact the new standards, it gives agencies discretion to give annual pay raises to these employees of up to three percent for employees evaluated in the middle category of merit, up to four percent for those evaluated in the second-highest category, and up to five percent for those evaluate in the highest category. Employees in the two lowest categories, which are the ones designating less-than-satisfactory performance and typically comprise less than one percent of all rated employees, receive no raises. Agencies may give lesser percentage hikes as long as levels from lower eligible categories do not exceed higher ones, for budgetary reasons.

Currently, typically almost 60 percent of employees are rated in the two highest categories.

Clearly this system better matches pay to performance than did the old one, where the 99 percent or so rated at least satisfactory except in times of high budgetary stress got four percent raises regardless of rating. Now, financial incentives will exist to motivate better performance and to guide less enthusiastic workers out of the state employment. The improved performance will provide better service delivery at reduced costs (even if the current bias towards unrealistically-high evaluation remains, which hopefully will be the next matter that the SCSC reviews for change).

But a few complained about this among the comments gathered pursuant to the drafting of the new regulations. One argued that the change really needed was addressing unclassified employees, specifically political appointees, that there were too many. Yet the fact is that fewer than five percent of all state full-time employees are appointees so savings would be pretty marginal by their reduction in numbers. At the same time, dealing with that does not mean then you don’t have to deal with compensation reform; they are not mutually exclusive.

Another opined that the new system would allow agencies to adopt informal policy not to give out ratings in the highest categories, which was echoed by a union flak at the hearing who added then raises may not be granted at all. However, that can be done already (and the failure to grant happened last year) under the current system so that is irrelevant as to why the new system would not be as good. And, as noted above, the evaluation system does need work precisely in the direction of realism that should cause fewer high evaluations to be given out.

Also, one seemed to be confused by calling potentially smaller increases “a cut in pay” when in fact no pay cuts are proposed (they are illegal without cause or when part of a reduction in force, in any event) and they were “a slap in our faces.” To which the appropriate response would be that if the remuneration was found inadequate and the organization demeaning, perhaps exiting the organization and finding a job elsewhere would bring the assumed deserved pay and respect. If enough quality people leave, then pay scales will rise to attract them back if this new compensation plan truly is flawed.

Finally, a note lodged by another union hack named Rodney Dufrene showed he neither understood the purpose of a classified civil service nor could use math as part of his critical thinking. He wrote, in advocating higher maximum levels of increases that “Any less than a 4 percent raise is in reality, a hardship on an employee, denying him or her the possibility of a true living raise.” Perhaps only he knows what a “living raise” is, but he certainly doesn’t know that the inflation rate for the past decade has been on average just about 2.5 percent, so what he suggests at 4.5 percent or better is almost twice the rate of cost-of-living increases.

Further, he wrote, “Please remember that the Civil Service Commission’s original goal was to protect the state’s workforce,” which is not in the Constitution as a duty of the SCSC. Even the broader concept, that of a civil service, is to provide protection for workers from political interference, not from salary increases lower than some would like.

This incoherent whining fortunately did no good as the SCSC astutely moved on, and by approving the resolution Jindal will allow the state to start saving perhaps tens of millions of dollars annually and to get better service from its bureaucracy. Jindal needs to sign this version and with that another hidebound institution would be reformed for the better under his watch.

1 comment:

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