Ala. city leaders authorize pay raises to make wages 'competitive’
The move comes after an 'unusually high' number of Birmingham police officers called out sick last week
By John Sharp
BIRMINGHAM — Birmingham and Mobile city officials are poised to approve pay raises for city personnel as cities around the U.S. grapple with how to make their workplaces more competitive.
A 5% pay raise for Birmingham city workers was endorsed Tuesday by the City Council, and now goes before the Jefferson County Personnel Board for approval. It could take effect by April 16.
“We believe it’s a good faith effort to not only show our appreciation but continues to make our wages competitive for our employees,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said during a committee of the whole meeting on Monday.
In Mobile, Mayor Sandy Stimpson also announced on Tuesday that city workers will get a 2.5% cost of living adjustment on April 9.
“It’s absolutely a business decision,” Stimpson said. “We know that there are a lot of companies that are offering a lot more money for similar services.”
A deeper dive into municipal and county government salaries is also coming in the form of an analysis by the Government & Economic Development Institute at Auburn University. That report will look at Alabama entities only and is set to be released this summer. It’s being conducted on behalf of a partnership with the Alabama League of Municipalities, the Alabama County Commission Association, and the Association of Public Personnel Administrators.
For Birmingham and Mobile city workers, at least, more pay raises are coming.
In Birmingham, Woodfin said a 5% merit raise and longevity pay will be included in his proposed operating budget for the next fiscal year starting July 1 that’s in addition to the raise that goes into effect in April.
The proposed 10% in combined pay raises would be added into a commitment from the city to cover the increased costs in health insurance benefits for all employees.
The money to cover the pay increases come from a $53 million surplus in the city’s fiscal year 2020-2021 budget. According to published reports, more than $11.6 million is being used to cover the 5% pay raise.
In Mobile, an additional 2.5% merit pay increase will be added to the city’s fiscal year 2022 budget, which would be effective on October 1. The 2.5% increases cost the city around $3 million and will apply to the city’s entire work force of approximately 2,200 employees, according to Stimpson.
The future increases come after the city adopted a 5% pay raise to all city employees last year. That raise cost the city $6 million, Stimpson said.
Stimpson also said the city will increase the minimum starting salary it pays its employees from $11.38 an hour to $15.22. He said that will affect approximately 300 employees.
Wesley Young, who heads up city’s Public Service employees union, praised the moves especially the inclusion of a merit pay increase.
“I think it’s the best thing that has happened to Mobile Public Service workers in 20 years,” said Young, who has butted heads with the Stimpson administration over the years.
Young also praised the administration and the Mobile County Personnel Board for engaging with the University of South Alabama on a regional compensation survey. While there is no timetable for the survey’s completion, Young said it should reveal that city truck drivers – sanitation, trash, etc. – are underpaid compared to equally-trained counterparts in the private sector.
“We have truck drivers in sanitation and truck drivers in trash who are making $11.38 an hour,” said Young. “That’s ridiculous. With a CDL license, you can go anywhere in the country and make $25 an hour.”
He said the new minimum was “a starting point,” adding that “there is more work to be done.”
Stimpson’s rollout of the compensation adjustment comes one week after the leader of Mobile’s firefighters’ union criticized the mayor for not boosting the starting salaries for public safety workers or offering competitive pay to replace a surge in vacancies within the city’s police and fire agencies.
Stimpson said he has not had any discussions with the union since last week.
“We believe every city employee ought to be paid at the competitive wage for their skill sets,” said Stimpson. “Every one of our city employees plays a critical role in what is being done in the city.”
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