By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
City administrators rolled out on Monday the findings and recommendations of a job classification and compensation study that began more than a year and a half ago.
City councilors, however, balked at a request to approve those recommendations without being afforded sufficient time to review the information. They plan to revisit the proposals when they meet Nov. 25, after they have time to examine the methodology used to reclassify the jobs of about 270 city employees.
The study found that more than 75 percent of workers in similar markets earn higher wages than the city’s non-uniform employees for performing comparable work. Raising Muskogee’s non-uniform employees’ pay to the median level is expected to cost about $900,000 — it would cost $1.05 million to raise all workers’ wages, including police and firefighters, to the 50th percentile.
Interim City Manager Roy Tucker said it would cost Muskogee taxpayers about $90,000 a year to raise non-uniform employee wages to a level that is half the median. It will be up to city councilors, he said, to determine the wage targets they would like to hit.
“I don’t foresee there being any impacts immediately since we are in the middle of the fiscal year,” Tucker said, noting that flat sales tax revenue during the past couple of years would require identifying other funding sources for any pay hikes. “Of course, any impact for union membership would have to be bargained for through the collective bargaining process. This will most certainly be a multiyear plan.”
The study, spearheaded by Hay Group Inc. at a cost of $44,000 plus project-related expenses and city employee time, was expected to take about nine months to complete. Michael Bates, the city’s labor relations director, said the reorganization of non-uniform employees after city councilors let their contract expire in 2011 and other issues contributed to significant delays.
Tucker said the study consisted of two components. The first included a job reclassification component that included getting input from workers in the field about the duties they are expected to perform on a daily basis.
Once that information was gathered, it was presented to department heads, who reviewed class descriptions and made recommendations for possible changes. Employees then were given a chance to recommend changes.
Dustin Williams, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2465 president, described the study’s findings as a “really touchy subject.” Although he doesn’t disagree with the study, Williams said he believes “there are some kinks that need to be worked out” before it’s ready for prime time.
“There is some re-tweaking that needs to be done before the city just goes forward with this,” Williams said, adding that although employees had an opportunity to review the proposed reclassifications, comment and appeal, there remains some confusion about how those will affect some workers. “There is one guy who has been a foreman for many years, and now he would not even be a foreman based upon the reclassification of his job.”
City councilors appeared to agree, saying the recommendations are far too sweeping to “rubber stamp” without a thorough review. Ward IV Councilor Wayne Johnson commended everybody involved with the project but said taking another month to review what has taken a year and a half to complete is not unreasonable.
“We’ve been waiting for this ... (and) to wait this long and then be asked to rubber stamp this, I just can’t do it,” Johnson said following a lengthy explanation of the study, its findings and consultants’ recommendations. “I have not had the time to review this. Once we take that action, I want to make sure we made the right decision.”
Bates initially asked city councilors to approve the new classifications, job titles, pay-grade determinations and consider approval of the market pay grade charts developed. After Johnson and other councilors expressed concerns about making a hasty decision, he asked only that they approve the new job classifications, saying that failing to do so would confuse new hires.
Johnson said he would “rather confuse a new employee than a longtime employee who has put in years for the city.”
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or email@example.com.