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Tacoma: City officials explain Council’s new “compensation philosophy” won’t affect employees’ current pay

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Feb. 14, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
February 14, 2013 4:50 pm

As we reported today, the Tacoma City Council this week approved a new “compensation philosophy” that drops the target pay ceiling for city employees.

City of TacomaThe council’s action reduces the city’s current standard — which targets paying city employees  better than about 70 percent of employees doing similar work — to a standard that’s now above 60 percent of the market.

What city officials didn’t readily say during reporting for the story Wednesday was how exactly the new approach would affect current employees.

Today, City Manager T.C. Broadnax and Human Resources Director Joy St. Germain said it won’t affect them or their current pay levels.

“We have a pay plan, so it’s not changing anything for current employees,” St. Germain said.

Broadnax, who noted the story accurately reflected the city’s compensation philosophy, added some employees may wrongly believe the new approach  means they’ll automatically get a 10 percent pay cut.

“That’s not accurate,” he said.

Where the new philosophy can have an affect for current employees is during the city’s future pay level adjustments and in labor contract negotiations, they said. The philosophy is meant to provide the council’s “guidance” to city officials during such future reviews of the city’s various job classifications, St. Germain said.

“But it’s not presupposed,” she added. “We do bargain in good faith.”

City officials will consider the new 60th percentile standard, as well as a variety of other competitiveness and budget factors when considering future pay levels, Broadnax added.

“We’ll evaluate where our employees compare to their peers in the market,” he said. “But then we’ll also look at such things as if we have a problem retaining employees and whether our competitors are taking employees from us … From all those kinds of viewpoints, we’ll begin to talk about what the appropriate salary should be for those positions.”

During such pay scale reviews, if it’s determined a particular job classification is being paid more than what the city believes should be the top pay range, pay for employees within that class wouldn’t change, Broadnax added.

“We’re not going to come in and say your salary should be reduced down to that (new target) level,” Broadnax said. “… Your salary would simply stay the same.”

Mayor Marilyn Strickland this week said the council was making the changes to its five-year old “compensation philosophy” due to the city’s current fiscal realities. City officials recently made $94 million in budget adjustments and project additional cuts in Tacoma’s next general fund budget.

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