In response to Ned Barnett’s June 5 column “State employees struggle as pay shrinks”: Barnett suggested that state employees are treated with “disdain,” and Ardis Watkins, government relations director for the union-backed State Employees Association of North Carolina, claimed, “There’s no way we’re going to keep a quality workforce when they are being treated the way they are treated.” Both need to be better informed.
SEANC in particular should know better. I’ve met with its leadership recently and discussed our initiatives with regard to state employee pay.
Gov. Pat McCrory is adamant that we need the best and brightest serving the people of North Carolina. To do this, we need state salaries to be competitive with the private sector.
What may have Barnett and Watkins confused is that we are taking a more modern approach to state employee pay. For decades, most state employees received identical pay increases, regardless of performance or job classification. We’re now shifting away from across-the-board pay increases to a more strategic, market-driven approach that considers turnover rates, staffing priorities and other factors to determine the salaries needed to recruit and retain competent employees.
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Implementation includes a $25 million Salary Adjustment Fund, which will provide salary increases to over 12,800 state employees in 271 job categories to better align their pay with the general job market.
Employees will see increases in their paychecks this month that will be retroactive to Jan. 1. This includes jobs in many important areas such as health care, law enforcement, early childhood development and juvenile justice. The average increase will be 5.9 percent, which amounts to approximately $2,300 per employee.
In July 2015, approximately 1,600 State Highway Patrol officers were among the 2,000 state employees who received strategic pay increases. In January, more than 10,000 corrections officers received pay raises. Also, state employees receive salary increases as the result of promotions, increased competency, greater responsibility and job reallocation. This means that every day, some state employees could be getting raises.
Since January 2013, state employees have received increases totaling over $73 million. All of these increases are in addition to the more than $1 billion in new funding that has been appropriated for North Carolina teacher raises since McCrory took office.
We’ve also developed a new comprehensive Statewide Compensation System that will align state positions with the general job market, facilitate a more consistent process for employees to progress within a pay range and add consistency to job titles and position descriptions with similar responsibilities.
Coupled with the state’s newly minted Performance Management System, which tracks performance and advances employee and managerial accountability, the new compensation system will further advance North Carolina state government’s reputation as a leader in HR innovation.
If SEANC genuinely supports the state employees from whom it collects dues, it should be more aware of the significant advances being made.
C. Neal Alexander Jr.
Director, Office of State Human Resources
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the column.