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State workers make cases for salary increase

By Holden Parrish
Idaho State Journal

BOISE - Some 30 state employees aired grievances and suggestions to Idaho lawmakers this week.

Assembling near the historical furniture on the fourth floor of the state Capitol, the workers, all members of the southern Idaho division of the Service Employees International Union, spoke to representatives and senators alike.

"The purpose of the meeting was to lobby legislators about state workers' issues, such as pay and benefits, and to better educate those people about what the issues are," said Andrew Hanhardt, president of the union's Local 687 chapter.

Included among the 30 were representatives from the Idaho Department of Transportation, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the Industrial Commission, Boise State University and the Central District Health Department.

Hanhardt said the state workers were able to make their positions clear on a number of issues, including a possible pay raise. In an address last week, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne recommended a 2 percent merit-based increase. Agency directors and supervisors would determine who would receive a raise.

Hanhardt said union members favored an across-the-board wage increase rather than a discretionary increase because the average worker has not received a raise in nearly three years, while others make the same today they made four or five years ago.

"Many, many state employees have met their part of the bargain," Hanhardt said. "But they might not see any of that money if a discretionary increase is awarded."

Hanhardt said his lack of faith in a discretionary distribution arises from Idaho's existing employee review system, which judges state workers by simply whether they pass or fail the review.

"There's no way to tell whether you're an exceptional employee or a non-exceptional employee. It's just pass or fail," Hanhardt said.

The 30 state employees present endorsed the Division of Human Resources' recommendation for a 6.8 percent raise, not the 2 percent suggested by Kempthorne.

"The agencies have the money," Hanhardt said. "It's whether or not they have a willingness or directive to do it."
Hanhardt said paying state employees more would save money on training and hiring.

"The state of Idaho is spending a lot of money to train people. We train them and other states hire them away," he said. "If we stop training them, what sort of work force are we going to have?"