Saturday, October 23, 2021

New Colorado state report shows – again – working in the private sector is more attractive

Colorado government employees are paid less than the private sector, state data shows. And those relative low salaries and thousands of unfilled positions leave the state incapable of meeting all demands, he alleges.

The state’s ability to compete for new employees and fill vacant slots affects the function of its basic services – from prisons to housing-support helplines, mental health facilities to public universities.

According to a report released on Wednesday by the Department of Personnel and Administration, the average base salary for an employee of the state is now 6.5% lower than the current market. This means that someone qualified for a government job of $70,000 can get around $5,000 more in the private sector.

But the state union reports that more than a fifth of government workers here earn less than $45,000, and more than 10% of jobs are consistently unfilled, rising to 20% in 2018.

“The reason we have problems attracting and keeping people is low pay,” said Skip Miller, who works in IT for the state and president of the Colorado WINS, the state employees’ union. “A lot of these jobs are tough – (transportation), corrections departments, health workers, hospitals. These are jobs that require dedicated people.

“You have to pay them and if not they will go somewhere else. And that’s what’s happening.”

State officials say the playing field is level over wage inequality, as government employees receive valuable benefits. This includes pension contributions from the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), which is 18% of the average salary – slightly better than in the private sector.

Even with benefits included, the state reports an average difference of about 3% in total compensation. This is an improvement over last year, when the state reported a difference of over 16%.

Both the state report and the union note that Colorado’s ability to close the gap has been helped by a 3% increase approved by the legislature this year. The state now contracts with a separate consultant to match its compensation figures, and Kara Veitch, the state’s director of personnel and administration, is more positive in her assessment of the numbers this year.

“The value of the state’s total compensation package is competitive with the market,” she wrote in a letter to the government. Jared Polis and State Sen. Dominic Moreno, who chairs the Legislative Joint Budget Committee. But he said the state needs to research and monitor different job classes that are not competitive.

In a statement, Veitch told The Denver Post that Colorado is “consistently working to become the employer of choice.”

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