(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – If you’re a member of the SEIU in Clark County the answer to that question is a resounding “YES!”
In fact, even after the pay “cuts” contained in the contract recently approved by the Clark County Commission, even if you’re still working in the same job, and even if your performance was never rated better than mediocre, you could be making nearly 40% more this year than you did during the height of the boom.
While much of the reporting of the contract focused on the 2% across the board pay decrease, there are plenty of other provisions that more than offset that measly reduction. In addition, union members received massive pay increases through the current recession as virtually all private sector workers were suffering huge pay and benefit cuts.
Years ago, the County and SEIU agreed on a contract scheduled to run from July 1, 2006 until June 30, 2010 (it actually is valid until April 30, 2011). The newly-approved contract is an extension of this contract with some revisions. The earlier agreement called for across the board raises of 3% in the first year, 4% for the 2007-2008 year, 3% for 2008-2009 and 3% above that for 2009-2010.
But that’s not all. Employees were also eligible to receive “Salary Adjustments.” These were available to all employees who had not reached the maximum salary level for their job classification, were rated as “Meets Performance Standard” (also known as “mediocre”) or higher on their evaluation and had not been disciplined for bad behavior. So, basically, just about everybody.
These Salary Adjustments amounted to 3% for those rated mediocre, 4% for employees attaining “Meritorious Level of Performance” and 5% for employees exceeding Meritorious. So even mediocre employees received raises totaling not 3% or 4% but 6% in each year of that contract except the second year, in which they would have received 7% raises.
The recently negotiated contract changed the rules and eliminated the 3 levels of Salary Adjustment. Under the new agreement, anyone receiving a mediocre evaluation or better will be awarded a 4% Salary Adjustment. So, even with the supposed 2% cut, the vast majority of employees will actually be getting a 2% raise this year.
Furthermore, when factoring in all of the raises together and the compounding of the percentages, an employee working the same job and receiving nothing better than mediocre evaluations will have a base pay that is 30% higher this year than five years ago.
But wait! There’s more!
After completing 8 years of service, SEIU members receive what is called Longevity Pay. This amounts to 0.57% times their number of years of service and is paid in a lump sum in the first pay period after their anniversary. For an employee who had worked at the County for 8 years it would be an additional 4.6% of base salary, after 10 years 5.7%, after 20 years 11.4%. An employee who has been at the County for 20 years and is making $50,000 would get an additional $5,700 on the first paycheck after his anniversary. Not only does the percentage increase every year but, with the Salary Adjustments increasing base pay as well, Longevity Pay is a larger percentage of a bigger number every year.
Adding in Longevity Pay, which all SEIU members with more than 8 years at the County receive, raises the percentage pay increase even higher.
When factoring in across the board increases/decreases, including the 2% pay cut, Salary Adjustments and Longevity Pay, an employee who was never promoted and never received a better than mediocre evaluation could be paid between 33% more and 39% more than he was five years ago. All the while, many private sector workers were suffering 30% and greater pay decreases.
And we haven’t even mentioned the part about the new contract possibly being valid only for 2 months instead of 12. In other words, the actual “savings” to the County from the pay “cuts” may be as little as 1/6 as much as advertised. So much for County negotiators driving a hard bargain.
If you can count a 2% pay cut as a 2.5% pay increase, if you’re continuing to make more money even as the recession devastates your neighbors, if you’re better off than you were five years ago, you might be a member of the SEIU.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)