Updated 

Salary Commission mulls more raises


By NANCY COOK LAUER

Stephens Media Hawaii

County employees not part of collective bargaining who weren’t awarded raises by the Salary Commission last month will likely have to wait until July 1 before their paychecks get any fatter.

The commission, meeting Thursday, said it wants to continue giving raises as well as bring the salary schedules up to date to reflect the present-day economy. It’s unknown whether the commission will move to resume automatic step increases that were frozen in 2010, or create a different way to ensure workers get periodic raises.

Commissioner Brian De Lima said he’d like to see the step increases eliminated.

“Step increases really take away from the responsibility of the commission,” De Lima said. “You’re hiding automatic increases. It’s automatic and it’s something we should go into with our eyes wide open.”

Step increases shuttle an employee automatically upward on a scale with set percentage increases along each step.

Commissioner Marcella Stroh was concerned some positions and salaries seem inequitable, compared to the levels of responsibility of the positions.

“Why did the salary schedule get so out of whack?” she asked.

The commission agreed to take some time to study the salary structure and individual salaries, in order for new raises to take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2014-15 fiscal year.

A dozen department chiefs received double-digit raises last month from the Salary Commission. The salary plan, designed to make Hawaii County officials’ salaries more on par with those on other islands and make sure no department head is making less money than his or her subordinates, added $10,218 to $17,598 to salaries of the 12 officials.

“In order to maintain the quality people you need and not have them leave for other jobs, we need to review these salary structures,” Commissioner Michael Sumja said at the time.

Mayor Billy Kenoi refused a raise and was subsequently removed from the salary plan.

Unionized employees also received pay increases this year.

United Public Workers and Hawaii Government Employee Association members, as well as elected officials, appointees and excluded managerial employees, were subject to first twice-monthly and then monthly furloughs from 2010 until last July 1. Then, UPW and HGEA employees not only got that day’s pay back, they also got raises of about 4 percent under union contracts negotiated at the state level. Police and fire employees also got healthy raises under collective bargaining agreements.

Last month, 31 appointed legislative staffers received 4 percent raises retroactive to July 1, thanks to action by Hawaii County Council. The raises, calculated to match similar raises granted unionized clerical staff, brought a council aide’s salary to $31,512 and the special assistant to the council chairman to $50,444.

Salaries for legal specialists, auditor assistants, legislative specialists and assistants to the county clerk also saw 4 percent increases, bringing their salaries into the $27,639 to $90,540 range. This was the first raise since 2008 for a class of workers who also took unpaid furloughs for three years.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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