OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley met with Governor Brad Henry and State Treasurer Scott Meacham Monday afternoon to discuss state employee pay. While the Association was appreciative of the opportunity, the news was disappointing.
“We have had a very frank discussion about state employees and the growing crisis in state government,” said Zearley after the meeting. “The Governor recommitted to a long-term compensation plan for state employees.”
Governor Henry told Zearley, who was accompanied by OSP Chapter President Randy Lopez and Deputy Director Scott Barger that he meant what he said to state employees on the Capitol steps during OPEA’s rally day.
“I meant it when I told state employees that we should have a long-term compensation plan for state employees, similar to the one I championed for teachers,” he reiterated.
Governor Henry and Treasurer Meacham agreed that the revenue picture remained bleak with budget negotiations seeking first to hold agency budgets stagnant without the loss of programs or employees.
“The task force indicated that the state needed to move to a more predictable and consistent model of compensation,” said Meacham referring to the Governors Task Force on State Employee Compensation which met last fall.
“But, we cannot leave this session without doing everything possible to help state employees,” said Zearley. “They have gone way past ‘above and beyond’ and are rewarded with shrinking paychecks.
Meacham agreed that the state had not done a very good job in compensating employees.
Oklahoma State Penitentiary OPEA Chapter President Randy Lopez gave the Governor a first hand account of the conditions facing staff at OSP.
“We are working without 35 percent of the workforce, mandatory double shifts every week and staff are tired,” he said. “We have had an employee wreck his car on the way home from a double shift, which really is an indicator that staff are past the breaking point.”
Governor Henry agreed that staffing issue must be resolved and agreed to talk with Director Justin Jones and the Office of Personnel Management about granting DOC direct hire authority.
“We did not get good news about a state employee pay raise,” said Zearley. “We are going to continue to meet with legislative leaders as budget discussions continue. State employees must receive a raise this year.”
OPEA will be sending out additional Action Alerts asking state employees to continue to email and call legislators.
“We have sent emails and we are going to send more,” he said. “We are also starting a series of press conferences over the next three weeks that will expose the how low pay for state employees directly affects services. Let’s all get busy where we can, emailing, calling and meeting locally with legislators to make certain state employees are not left out this year.”