| 03.17.2018

An unfair distribution


Proposed CEC initiatives leave some employees behind

It’s no secret the University of Idaho has been bleeding highly qualified, competent employees at all levels for several years now.

It’s not that UI isn’t a great place to be, but when the majority of employees can drive 10 minutes to Washington State University and increase their salary by thousands of dollars without having to move, it’s a bit of a no-brainer.

But people aren’t just leaving for the higher salaries eight miles away. Employees are leaving for better paying jobs all over the country, and many of them are leaving for places where employee morale — and pay — is substantially higher.

Although not much in the grand scheme of things, a state-mandated 3 percent Change in Employee Compensation was expected to suppress the bleeding, at least for a little bit. At the very least, the 3 percent CEC would improve morale across the board.

But university administrators recently announced that instead of a 3 percent increase for all of its employees, they hope to divide a portion of the $3.1 million among three initiatives that will give some employees higher raises than others and provide a way to persuade those threatening to leave to reconsider UI.

The initiatives, which include raising the university minimum wage to $12.02 and providing longevity and distinguished employee raises, are great. No one would argue UI shouldn’t give its employees livable wages or reward people for exemplary work. These are good things the university is trying to do.

But the purpose of CEC is to provide all employees with a long-overdue 3 percent raise that doesn’t even compare to the rate at which living expenses have increased since the economic recession six years ago.

As the cost of living increases, employees have essentially taken annual pay cuts when their salaries haven’t risen proportional to — or even in conjunction with — inflation.

Now skilled employees at all levels could take the hit and receive less of a wage increase because the university needs to be able to offer more money to skilled employees threatening to leave.

While this is certainly a useful tool for the university in retaining those highly skilled and necessary employees, it caters to those who have the ability and desire to threaten to leave.

UI is filled with employees who love the university and want to work here for that reason alone. They don’t want to leave for WSU or any other university because they are dedicated and passionate about this university.

So a miniscule 3 percent raise that was intended to boost, or at least maintain, employee morale might not actually be used to help those most dedicated employees feel appreciated — the ones that have no intention of leaving — and that’s a shame.

The university has to make a choice, to no fault of their own, as to whether they want to achieve the salary goals they’ve set or give a raise across the board, and that’s a hard place for decision makers to be when there’s no realistic way to do both things.

In a state that doesn’t seem to understand the value of highly qualified employees in higher education, or even the value of higher education in general, it’s left up to the universities to find ways to increase pay for employees, and it’s simply not feasible.

— KK

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