Oklahoma’s state workers, many of whom have not had a pay raise in several years, are frustrated to learn that the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have given their employees a five percent pay increase. These raises were approved while a study is underway to determine how state employee compensation compares to other employers that compete for the same workforce. During the last legislative session, state leaders were reluctant to grant any changes in compensation until after the study’s findings and recommendations were released.
“The regents authorizing a raise for their employees while other state employees wait demonstrates how uneven the current compensation system is,” said Sterling Zearley OPEA Executive Director. “Employees of large agencies get passed over for raises because of the overall expense of granting raises while employees of smaller agencies might get raises because the total cost is not as great. The regents raise is just another example of where some groups of state employees are treated differently than others.”
The compensation study is scheduled to be completed in time for recommendations to be made prior to the 2014 legislative session. State leaders have said that after the state employee compensation study was completed, they would consider similar studies for higher education and common education employees.
OPEA believes the differences in how raises may be funded create an environment where some workers get raises more frequently than others creating frustration among those who have not had raises in several years.
“During the legislative session, state workers were told that raises weren’t possible until the study was completed because after the study we would have a better perspective on how to address employee pay in fair and responsible way,” he said. “There should be consistency on how all state employees’ pay is determined regardless of which agency they work for.”
“After May’s tornadoes and the tremendous response by state troopers, legislators discussed raising trooper pay. The raise did not happen because leadership and the governor’s office wanted to wait until after the study,” Zearley said. “Three months later, the regents give pay raises to their staff. This just adds to the frustration that troopers, correctional officers, social workers and other workers feel.”
OPEA has told state officials that Oklahoma must develop a fair and responsible compensation program for all state agencies that brings state employee pay closer to market and also includes a plan that ensures compensation stays competitive with other employers. A fair compensation plan will help reduce high state-worker turnover which costs Oklahoma taxpayers millions annually.