There will be no pay raises for state employees over the next two years under terms of a pay plan unveiled by the administration of Governor Scott Walker on Tuesday.
That’s in keeping with the demise of collective bargaining for state employees enacted into law earlier this year. Democrats such as Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca are not pleased with the pay plan. “It’s really a huge shift to enable the governor to have incredible ability to restructure the way the employees are compensated in this state,” Barca said.
The changes also include revisions to overtime rules and merit pay raises. Administration officials defended the plans. “I believe it reflects, not a power grab in any manner, but in fact a recognition of the desire that we have a strong workforce, one that is compensated at a market level, that keeps us competitive in hiring employees,” said Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch.
“The vast majority of public employees will see few changes in their day to day work life. However, we are continuing to reform state government in ways that will improve service and save taxpayer dollars,” said GOP Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald in a statement. “Under the previous system, a public employee could take eight hours of sick leave and then work the following shift, getting paid for a 16 hour day. A small group of employees would repeat this pattern day after day, inflating their salaries to six figure sums. Since pension levels are determined based on the final three years of service, the result has been a double whammy to tax payers who have been on the hook not only for the inflated salaries but for the decades of padded pensions that follow. These commonsense reforms put an end to this abuse and are estimated to save more than $5 million a year at the Department of Corrections alone.”
“This is unfortunately just the latest in the continuing efforts to take rights away from workers and grab power by the Walker administration,” said a statement from Senator Minority Leader Mark Miller. “Through difficult economic times, workers have taken unpaid furloughs and offered to contribute more for their benefits, only asking to maintain their rights in the workplace in return. Today the Walker administration has announced that, instead of bringing people together to reach agreements, they will instead impose their plan on workers.”
“We’re all kind of sharing the pain right now, but we’ll also share any gain,” said Huebsch during a conference call with reporters. “If we are able to see the economy turn around, if Wisconsin is able to bounce back, one of the things that we have in place here is discretionary merit compensation. And of course we will revisit the opportunity to raise salaries for state employees should the economy and state tax revenues turn around.”
READ DOA media briefing (PDF)