New state plan is pay for preference, not performance

April 27, 1996|By Williams Hudson Jr. and Sue Estey

Your APRIL 17 editoral, "Personnel revolution in Annapolis," shows a lack of understanding of the state personnel system, its policies and even human nature.

You suggest that the current system somehow rewards "indolent, non-productive employees as much as hard-working colleagues."

While you enjoy bashing public employees and suggesting there is a surplus of lazy ones, that is far from the truth.

Maximum dedication has been the rule for state employees who have been confronted with a rapid increase of caseloads, clients, patients and inmates in combination with reduced staffing, uncompensated expansion of hours and arbiet cuts.

The state also has a highly developed system of firing employees who don't cut the mustard and denying step increases if the work is not up to par.

You predict that "pay for performance" will create a "sea change" in attitudes and efficiency. Let's think about those attitudes.

The current pay system has major problems, not the least of which is the overall low rate of pay for state employees.

The way the current system works, employees are hired at a rate which is especially low. Then, if annual evaluations are satisfactory or better, the employee receives a 6 percent raise for four years and 2 percent for the next ies have consistently shown are lower than the private sector.

Under the "pay for performance" system suggested to the Personnel Reform Task Force, the employee would still be hired at the same low rate, and then, subject to the supervisor's discretion, provided with a 2, 3 or 4 percent raise for satisfactory, above satisfactory or outstanding work.

The supervisors will be advised to keep above-average and outstanding ratings to a minimum because of budget restrictions.

Simple math tells us that above-satisfactory employees will need more time to reach the same level of pay they would now obtain in six years; a satisfactory employee would take 14 years! This "sea ed with a limited pool of funds, how will a supervisor decide who to reward?

Unlike jobs in sales or manufacturing, most state jobs are interdependent and the product is hard to measure.

Since employees would be aware that only some can get raises, won't there be an automatic disincentive to work together as a team?

And, won't the employee try to please the supervisor instead of the public? Won't disagreement be stifled? To top it off, supervisors who use the system to reward favorite employees will be virtually unchecked because there is a protion is different than ours.

Like all workers, state employee job satisfaction is determined largely by the ability to positively influence the work environment, improve the work product and services and be rewarded for good work.

This legislation plays a cruel hoax on this question by requiring "quality teams" that have already been tried and frequently failed in state government. "Team" members have not been democratically proving state productivity and services?

The only real way is to involve employees by allowing them to democratically elect representatives to negotiate with managers to solve problems, provide incentives, improve state services and reward employees.

Collective bargaining is the method to truly achieve these goals.

William Hudson Jr.

Sue Estey

Baltimore

The writers are executive director and and legislative director, respectively, of AFSCME Council 92.

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