Florida company gives workers raise to cover higher gas prices

200 employees receive an extra 50 cents an hour `to keep pace' with needs

September 16, 2005|By Harry Wessel | Harry Wessel,ORLANDO SENTINEL

APOPKA, Fla. - For Sherman Brown Sr., the recent surge in gasoline prices means an extra $12 every time he fills the tank of his Jeep Grand Cherokee.

But Brown isn't complaining these days. He's one of 200 employees of A&B Electric Co. who just received a 50-cent-an-hour raise for the express purpose of offsetting skyrocketing gas costs.

"We have calculated that by paying you an extra $20 per week on a normal work week that we can at least keep pace with your personal outlay" for gasoline, co-owner Dave Riche wrote in a Sept. 1 letter to employees.

"All of you are now facing the crunch that is being and will be felt for months to come," he wrote.

A&B Electric, a 36-year-old company in Apopka, Fla., has its own gas crunch to deal with. The monthly fuel bill for its 65 vehicles has doubled over the past year, from $10,000 to $20,000. But the majority of its employees don't drive company vehicles, and Riche said he figured they deserved a break. Employees first received the extra cash in their Sept. 9 paychecks.

Using pay increases to help workers with higher gas costs puts Riche's company in a small minority. This month, the Society for Human Resource Management asked its members: "What, if anything, is your organization doing or planning to do to help employees deal with high gas prices?"

Out of more than 450 responses, fewer than 1 out of 5 were doing or planning anything. Among those doing something, the measures ranged from offering public-transportation discounts and organizing carpools to raising mileage-reimbursement rates. No surveyed company reported giving its employees pay increases.

A&B is not alone. Clark & Daughtrey Medical Group in Lakeland, Fla., announced yesterday a "fuel cost-of-living adjustment" for workers making less than $15.25 an hour.

"We recognize that energy costs are putting an extra burden on our employees, especially those in the lower wage brackets," said Dr. Kamal Haider, president of Clark & Daughtrey's board of directors. He estimated the annual increase of $500 to $1,000 a year for each affected employee would cost the company $180,000.

More than 60 percent of the medical group's 280 employees will be affected, with the lowest-paid employees getting the biggest adjustments. The increases, ranging from about 25 to 50 cents an hour, will first show up in Oct. 7 paychecks.

A&B's Riche, like Clark & Daughtrey's Haider, said he hoped to send a strong signal to employees that their company really cares about them.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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