Pay Raises Approved for State and University Workers

MacIver News Service | June 26, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] Wisconsin state and university workers will get a one percent raise to their base pay for each of the next two years after a unanimous vote by the Joint Committee on Employment Relations (JCOER) on Wednesday.

The raise is estimated to cost $43.6 million for regular state employees and $89 million for UW system employees for a total of $132.6 million.

This will be the first base-change in compensation for non-represented state workers since 2008, and for represented state workers since 2009.

Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) applauded the plan as the fruition of the last two years of an austerity budget.

“When you have tough times, normally as a company but even as a local or state government, you have to ask people to give back,” Vos said. “When times get better, you try to give back to the people who are your investors, either shareholders in the private sector or taxpayers in the public sector.”

Representative Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) argued that there should be meetings between state employees and their supervisors in each department to get their input on working conditions, workers’ compensation, and workplace safety. Speaker Robin Vos rejected this proposal, saying that it was unnecessary and bordering on negotiating more things than simply base wages.

Though the vote was unanimous, Democrats clearly thought that one percent was not enough. When asked about how much he thought the raise should have been, Representative Barca stated his opinion that “one percent is about as modest as you could possibly make [the raises].”

Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) asked a representative from the Office of Employee Relations how much the pay increase would have to be in order to make up for all possible factors that could have been affected by the pay freeze, including the freeze on benefits and inflation. That rise after considering 220 market adjustments, he was told, would have to be about 12-14%.

Senator Larson was also concerned that lagging compensation might make the UW-System a “farm-system” sending qualified employees to better-funded universities in other states.

As of the time of the vote, the UW System had $89 million in its compensation reserves as opposed to the $43.6 million set aside for other state workers, despite the two having roughly the same amount of employees.