Tuesday, July 19, 2011

John Locke: StarNews misses point on public employee pay raises.

Verne Strickland Blogmaster


The overstated line of the year is that the economy is in shambles.

 While unemployment languishes in the 9+% range, the REAL unemployment numbers are closer to 20%.  There are folks who have run out of time on unemployment.  There are those who have accepted far less pay or are now working far from home or both. There are also those who have simply stopped looking for a job.  It’s tough, period!

And government jobs have substantial advantages in difficult economies.  One, they’re likely to stay employed.  Real unemployment amongst government workers in NC at the local and county level approaches 2%.  Two, they have stellar retirement and benefit packages, many retire in their early fifties with full benefits.
And three, their performance is rarely questioned from a management perspective.  I say that with a family member in their employ.

But the StarNews had the following to say about county employees that might well see a 3% raise this year because the commissioners in New Hanover County were so magnanimous with other people’s money.
For the past two budget years employees not only didn’t get a raise, but those who were fortunate enough to survive layoffs were forced to take pay cuts in the form of unpaid furloughs. In many cases they are being asked to take on more and more responsibilities as jobs are frozen or eliminated.
Copy those sentiments and multiply them, that’s the reality of countless folks in the private sector who are still fortunate enough to have ANY job!  I’m not saying that county employees don’t work hard, I’m saying that having a job with benefits and low chance of being unemployed SHOULD suffice in the public employ.  The StarNews added insult to injury for questioning anyone so low as to criticize this move.
While budget conditions may necessitate withholding pay raises, doing so does little to help morale. Yes, there’s always someone who can point to a government worker who performed incompetently or abused the public trust. But for every one of them are countless others who give to their taxpayer-funded job the level effort that most private employers expect from their workers.
That little line in there about pay raises and morale. . . yep, but survival trumps morale and most folks would rather have a morale problem than lack a job. Again, I’ll reiterate that the issue here is not against the public sector employees, but against trying to juxtapose their efforts as being more worthy than those of the private sector whose diminished ability to produce income pays those salaries.  Those private sector jobs are suffering FAR more than those in the public employ.

In fact, it would take 63,000 additional job losses for state and local employees to match just 9% unemployment, but I didn’t see that in the editorial.