Former city employees are frustrated with salaries, lack of action
COLUMBIA - Retired employees of the Columbia Electric Utilities are frustrated with the city for its lack of action in implementing better policies towards their employment and salaries.
On Monday, the group released a report stating the changes they'd like to see made, and why they are essential. In the report, they expressed how they believe this matter to be crucial towards Columbia’s overall infrastructure and asked the city why no action has been taken.
Six months ago on June 18, the retired employees attended a city council meeting where they discussed the issue of a loss of experienced line workers to other utilities. The group says this is due to non-competitive pay, and is asking the city to provide incentives to high performing employees through merit raises and establish competitive salaries.
Merit-based pay, or an increase of pay for high-performance employees, is something Jim Windsor, the retired assistant director of utilities, says is necessary.“Throughout the city, very high performers have left to go to other places because they are not seeing their their work ethic rewarded,” said Windsor.
City Councilman Mike Trapp believes the line worker issue is “complex,” and needs time for a proper evaluation so that the city manager's office can look at salaries for line workers using a contract agency to determine that the city is paying a comparable rate of pay.
Part of the reason he says the city hasn't been able to address these concerns is because of overall city budget funds. “we haven't been able to do raises because of shortages,” said Trapp.
He also doesn't agree with their demands for a merit-based pay policy. “We have a policy of treating universality so everyone gets a raise or no one gets a raise.”
Windsor believes that mentality is leading to more workers leaving.
“When you can't [reward hard workers] you lose those people, and that just makes no sense,” he said.
Since June, ten workers have left, eight of which chose to start working for different electrical companies that pay more, such as Boone Electric or Howard Electric. The decrease of electrical utility workers for the city means that there are fewer responders to problems like power outages or repairs.
The city has employed contract workers to fill these gaps.Windsor said that contracting crews are twice as expensive as in-house crews, and doesn't understand how the city claims there is no funds for raises.
“How wasteful does the city council want to be in terms of the funds we are paying out?” said Windsor.
Trapp agrees that the issue is important and needs to be addressed, but says that the city needs time to assess the changes.
“We’re going to collect the data, we’re going to put a report out, and we’re going to make a policy level decision to direct the city manager through the budget negotiations, but it’s really unlikely that we’ll be able to address the issue until next year’s budget so we just ask folks to be patient,” said Trapp.
The city will decide on a new budget in September. Until then, Trapp doesn’t believe there will be any new developments.