California City Will Seize Rights And Money From Its Lowest Paid Employees, But Management Pay Remains Bloated!
A Shameful Case Of Shared Sacrifice In California!
How many times have you heard the term ‘shared sacrifice’ in the last year? Doesn’t it just make you want to take the guy who thought it up and knock him up against the wall a few times? Maybe it is just a thing with me; maybe I just get angry when I hear it because I know that the sacrifice is going to come from me and the guy that is saying it is just gonna keep on driving his Mercedes, all the way to his house on the beach…
That newest rule of shared sacrifice, combined with the current negative perception of public employees has empowered mayors in cities throughout the state of California. They are seizing the opportunity! Management can now victimize their lowest paid workers and be lauded as heroes, while the bloated pay and fringe benefits of management remains out of the spotlight and survives intact. What was unconscionable five years ago is now perceived to be sound, responsible government. Bell, Ca. was not an isolated incident.
Carlsbad, California is one example of shameful shared sacrifice. Carlsbad is an affluent city just north of San Diego. This city of a little over one hundred thousand residents hugs the scenic coastline. Its eclectic mix of quaint beach cottages are nestled close to opulent cliffside homes that overlook pristine beaches. The median house price is $550,000. Carlsbad is home to La Costa Golf Resort and Lego Land. The residents have just elected a new mayor. He has been involved in city government for years. The citizens are comfortable with him. They think he is one of them.
But new Mayor Matt Hall and City Hall are pushing a dark agenda to bridge a $2.8 Million dollar budget shortfall (fuzzy math and the existence of hard to track multiple accounts). The agenda and the contract offer have not been made public yet, and the Mayor has not responded to my email, questioning the offer and his motives. The contract may be imposed by the City Council prior to the residents even being made aware of its implications. Without the support of the residents, the lowest paid city workers will lose every protection they have. They may even lose their jobs and Carlsbad may become the next Costa Mesa; the next city in California that can outsource entire city departments to private companies. Not management staff. Management staff is safe from the axe, in spite of the fact that they earn the bulk of the payroll. The numbers are from the most recent available, 2009 to 2010.
Targeting The Lowest Paid Employees!
The targeted employees are the LOWEST paid workers in the city. There are 330 members of the Carlsbad City Employees Association. The first 20 of the employees (computer geeks and engineers) on the list earn a total of $1,893,489.00, The highest base salary is $108,978, but there are 154 employees in this class of workers that earn under $50,000.
Carlsbad Management has a staff of 111 employees. Base pay of the top 35 of these employees totals $4,857,782.00. The highest paid employee of the 35 earns a base pay of $236,300 and 35th on the list makes $110,449.00. Out of the 111 management employees, only 3 earn under $50,000.00 a year. Every management employee is also eligible for what is called Incentive Pay. Incentive Pay can add an extra 10% bonus to the yearly base salary. These employees get TAXPAYER FUNDED BONUSES based on meeting goals. What goals? They are the only employees of the city that qualify for the Incentive Pay Plan. Although these employees make the bulk of the money, their benefits and pay are not the target of the cuts. Their money and bonuses are safe…Shared sacrifice… Try as I might, I cannot find the amount of money that is paid from this 'fund' every year. Heck, I can't even find the fund listed in the budget...Are the taxpayers aware that Management is paying itself BONUSES?
Second and third on the pay scale are the police and firefighters. There are approximately 227 firefighters, paramedics and police officers. Only 9 of these employees earn under $50,000.00 per year in base pay. The top 20 employees earn a total of just under $3,000,000.00. The highest compensation is $173,753.00. The police already have a new contract in place, but the firefighters are also negotiating. The firefighters will have the following ‘non-financial’ clause imposed on them, too. It is thought that perhaps the mayor wants to outsource paramedics, but the residents may rise up in opposition to that approach.
In the new contract offer made by the City, the Association employees’ wages are to be frozen and their pension contribution will be increased to 7%. The City will pay other benefits at 50%, while the employees will contribute 50%.
Most onerous of the clauses in the ‘offer’ from the city is ‘non-financial’ in nature. It falls under City Rights and says: After meeting and conferring over the decision and the effects, the rights of the City include the ability to transfer employees among various City activities and work groups; implement unpaid furloughs of employees; contract out bargaining unit work to third parties or assign work to City employees outside the bargaining unit.
Practical translation of this clause: After deciding to activate this clause, the city has the right to transfer any employee to any other position; e.g. 1) If you are a senior librarian earning $70,000 dollars a year, the city may transfer you to the position of tree trimmer I at a yearly salary of $26,929. Don’t like it—quit. 2) The city may decide to send you and your entire department home without pay and hire private contractors to do your jobs (outsourcing), or the city may hire part-time workers to do your job and pay what they wish and offer no benefits. The clause has no limitations. The clause may be activated at any time, even in a healthy economy, at the whim of the mayor and his like-minded City Council members. It is thought to be an effort to fire the most senior and most educated employees and replace them with lower paid, less qualified workers.
This and similar clauses are popping up all over California. City employees in California are not members of large unions. They belong to small associations, so they do not have union backing.
The Scandal Of An Incentive Plan For Management Employees Only!
The following is taken from the Management Compensation and Benefits Plan that is printed on the Carlsbad website. How many Taxpayers know about the existence of this plan? Are bonuses even supposed to be paid from City revenues? If the goal of a particular manager is to come in under budget for his or her department, could this BONUS PLAN serve as an incentive to delay the purchase of needed equipment or to cut corners on necessary maintenance? The very existence of a BONUS PLAN in any city government is questionable, at best. Managers receive a salary( the largest salaries are at the management level) to do their jobs. Why is that salary alone not sufficient motivation for a job well done. Especially in a climate of 'shared sacrifice'...Especially when the lowest paid employees are targeted for cuts and possible extinction?
The description is not edited.
INCENTIVE PAY PLAN
The Incentive Pay plan is provided in addition to the Base Pay plan.
All management employees are eligible for incentive pay, regardless of their position in the salary range. All management employees’ salary above base pay is unfixed and uncertain until completion of the evaluation and award process annually, in which the incentive portion, if any, is determined for each management employee.
Employees earn the incentive based on their achievement of goals established during the performance management process. For each goal, achievement is rated based on one of two performance levels: Threshold or Target.
Unlike base pay increases which are determined at the end of the performance management cycle, the potential incentive percentages will be made public at the beginning of the performance review cycle. Incentive awards are expressed as a percentage of base pay. The City Council will determine the annual amount to be budgeted for management incentive pay, and an Incentive Pay matrix will be distributed to all management employees. This matrix will change from time to time based on the City’s economics, market data, and demographics. At the end of the fiscal year and upon completion of the review process, incentive awards will be granted to employees based on their level of goal accomplishment during the performance management cycle. No management employee shall be awarded incentive compensation in an amount greater than 10% of that employee’s base salary.
The City Manager will periodically provide the City Council with progress reports on the operation of the Performance Management and Compensation System.
On April 12, 2011, Julie Clark, HR, City of Carlsbad, sent an email to clarify the Incentive Plan. The body of the email stated:
"All management employees are assigned goals each fiscal year, and each management employee is eligible for incentive pay based on the achievement of individual and departmental goals that pertain to his/her area of expertise. The aim is to have each manager assigned goal(s) that link his/her individual efforts to the objectives of their department and ultimately to the goals and objectives that are set by the City Council each fiscal year.
The City Council sets the incentive pay percentage at the beginning of the fiscal year (July) and the incentive awards are based on a percentage of the manager's annual salary. If granted, the incentive awards are given at the conclusion of the fiscal year after all performance evaluations are completed and goal achievement has been evaluated. This usually takes place in August. No incentive awards have been given to management employees in almost three years - the last time incentive awards were given was in July 2008. Therefore, each manager is assigned goals on an annual basis and the City Council decides whether or not to fund the incentive pay program."
Ms. Clark's email, while appreciated, added only one thing to the conversation. She states that there have been no awards made since July 2008. There is no effort to suggest that the existence of the BONUS plan is being reviewed for elimination. Even in prosperous times, management employees of city government should not need to receive a taxpayer funded BONUS to achieve goals. Achievement of goals is the job of all employees, management or otherwise. A salary is paid in exchange for doing your job. City management, the most highly compensated public employees, require the existence of a BONUS as incentive to perform? The very idea is absurd. I do not necessarily believe that there have been no BONUSES paid. I have seen no proof. The very existence of a Management Incentive Pay Plan leads me to question the voracity of Ms. Clark's claim. Further, if Ms. Clark's claim is true, and the managers have received no BONUS for two fiscal cycles, she does not suggest that BONUSES will not be paid at the end of the current fiscal cycle. Finally, it is my premise that BONUSES have no place in City government.
Revised 07/2010-see page 4 for Bonus Plan
Shared Sacrifice Demands Knowing Where The Greed Is!
The ‘shared sacrifice’ philosophy is nothing shared. Carlsbad Management is sharing nothing and remains rich, while the poor get poorer.
Capitalizing on perceptions is an art. Maybe Matt Hall and the City Council of Carlsbad each read the book by Frank Luntz, the GOP guru, titled: WORDS THAT WORK! ITS NOT WHAT YOU SAY! ITS WHAT PEOPLE HEAR! The 'word art' that is being perfected in this one California community is far from unique. Public employees are viewed as greedy parasites, and some of them are. The greedy are not usually the lowest paid employees in any discussion, and are definitely not the parasites in this discussion. This is not isolated to Carlsbad, California. It is not isolated to Costa Mesa or even the city of Bell, California. It is happening all over the state of California and in other states throughout the country. Almost every state in the nation has cities that are handing over taxpayer-funded bonuses to management.
Before supporting the philosophy of 'shared sacrifice', make sure that the sacrifice is REALLY being shared!