Editorial: The pitfalls of merit pay — After years with no raises, state employees deserve more
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jun 19, 2013 | 2284 views |  0 comments | 127 127 recommendations | email to a friend | print
State employees have historically earned raises to (a.) compensate for the rising cost of living and (b.) to reward them for meritorious performance.

Since 2008, when state revenue took a hit from the Great Recession, state workers have received neither, even though inflation has continued to eat away at their buying power and many, if not most, have continued to perform their jobs in a meritorious fashion.

While the state’s budget hawks complain about the cost of government, they consistently fail to acknowledge that when it comes to providing services to its residents, our state gets more for its money than most states and many businesses.

That is why this page is pleased that Gov. Robert Bentley has announced plans to reinstate merit raises starting Jan. 1.

However, the plan has pitfalls.

Pay for meritorious service depends on the administrator who evaluates the service and judges it worthy of a reward. It is not a cost-of-living increase, granted across the board, with little regard for the quality of the work. This requires clear criteria for judging the employee’s performance and an equally clear understanding on the part of the supervisor and the employee of what goes beyond what is normally expected.

As a consequence, a worker who does an adequate job, who shows up and does what is expected, may find himself or herself without a raise or with a raise smaller than he or she feels is deserved. Let’s face it, it is not uncommon for an employee to feel he or she are equal to or better than their co-workers. In jobs where the results are not immediately evident, or there is not a common understanding of what is meritorious, merit raises can cause dissention in the workplace.

The best way to fairly increase salaries is a combination of cost-of-living and merit, a base figure for all and merit raises on top of that.

Lacking the money to go that route, and saddled with a state Legislature that has categorically refused to consider reasonable methods of raising new revenue for the state, the governor is doing what may be the only option he has — reinstating merit pay raises.

It now falls the task of the supervisors to grant the raises fairly.
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