By Sammy Foy
The Meridian Star
I spoke at the last Meridian City Council meeting concerning pay for city employees. My intent was to inform the council that many city employees are not being paid equitable salaries. The clerk of the council and other city employees deserve to be paid a competitive salary.
My experience in years past was that the “squeaky wheel always gets the grease.” This system penalizes employees who are un-informed about the process and keeps them at the lower end of the pay structure. The concern is that many employees who work for the city do not get the exposure to the council and are uncomfortable asking or don’t know how to request a raise. Most employees don’t even know how to request a raise. Most employees don’t even know what happens in council meetings and are busy trying to make a living.
There are many employees working in different departments for the city who carry different titles, but are classified in the same pay “grade”. It would seem as if an employee has reached satisfactory evaluations in years past, that the salary paid in each grade to all employees would be relatively close. This is not the case!
Thirteen years ago, the council hired a company to evaluate all facets of each job on every department in the city. That company interviewed many of the employees working for the city and all the employees ha to fill out questionnaires asking them what they did. All that data was compiled and then each job title was classified, ranked, and then put into one of 44 grades. There are as many as nine job titles in one grade. Each grade has a salary range with a minimum and a maximum salary in each grade. All grade ranges can be adjusted because of cost of living increases. Cost of living increases are the only increases that many city employees have received in the past 12 years!
If the system is fair, then everyone who works for the city, whose job is classified and graded, would be paid somewhere between the minimum and maximum range for that job. This has not happened and, in some cases, a few employees are paid as much as 30% above the salary range for their grade!
I believe that one of the major hindrances to hiring and retaining highly qualified employees within my department is that our salaries have not kept pace with the market. There are towns nearby, which are ? the size of Meridian, that starting pay for firefighters is $5,000.00 a year more than ours.
When I started to work for the Meridian Fire Department in 1981, less than 10% of my department had 5 years or less experience. The numbers bear the facts, now 50% of our department has less than 5 years of experience! Think about this, when your loved ones are at risk, ? of the people responding to your aid can have little experience at best!
We do the best we can to prepare these young people to assist you in any way possible, but there is no substitute for experience! Training and education are important parts of the whole fire fighter, but experience brings confidence and a sense of teamwork that takes time to develop. If we don’t stop this real soon, there will be dire consequences facing this community.
As I stated in the last council meeting, I have little first-hand knowledge concerning pay issues in other departments, but I suspect that they face the same problems. I do know that some of the “old heads” in other departments are not making competitive salaries. If you look at the MML reports online, salaries form any positions are not competitive. People don’t stay at a job that does not value the sacrifice and commitment of a loyal employee. Therefore, we lose many of our best as they try to support their families. The issue is that most city employees are not exposed to council agendas and are uncomfortable asking or don’t know how to request a raise.
Mayor Barry has inherited problems that are not insurmountable, but they may seem that way! The employees of our department have spoken with the Mayor about the problems facing us and she understands and is looking into corrective action.
When I spoke to the council last week, they seemed to think that our issue was about a raise for their clerk. The issues are fairness, taking care of all city employees, and concern for how the other families of city employees are going to survive!
During the last few years, I have discovered that when employees don’t let you know they are unhappy; they are looking for a way out. Please don’t let this happen!