Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 | 2 a.m.
When we read recent reports that many Clark County government workers were receiving salary increases, we had one thought: Seriously?
As the Las Vegas Sun’s Joe Schoenmann has reported, Clark County has been working with unions representing its employees to try to whittle down costs and has received concessions from several unions over the past few years. However, many county employees have still seen their wages increase over the past three years. (You can find coverage here.)
For example, county officials said members of the Service International Employees Union received average wage increases of 12.6 percent over that time. A spokesman for the SEIU, which is negotiating its contract with the county, disputed the number and said the union was doing its own analysis.
County officials have been accused of overstating wages before. This year, county officials said prosecutors had received total wage increases of 15 percent over three years. As Schoenmann noted, District Attorney David Roger complained, saying the county had grossly overstated the increases. However, an audit backed the county, saying the number was 14.6 percent.
Regardless, the squabbling over numbers misses the larger point: Times are tough. Thousands of workers in Clark County have lost their jobs, and many workers have taken pay cuts. Nevada continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the nation. And an untold number of others have gone years without pay increases.
Yet, the SEIU is asking for cost-of-living and merit raises over the next two fiscal years, according to the county. It is also trying to hold on to longevity pay for new employees. The county wants to freeze salary increases for a year and cut longevity pay, which is antiquated and costly, for new employees.
The divide in positions could lead to a stalemate, and County Manager Don Burnette said the longer contract negotiations are drawn out, “the more likely it is we have to consider budget cuts that we don’t want to consider.” That could mean layoffs, and that would affect county services.
The unions should step back and look at this realistically: Americans who have jobs are thankful to be working; they’re not demanding wage hikes.
The county should stand firm and focus its efforts on preserving and providing services. Given the economy, there is precious little funding, and salary increases don’t serve the taxpayers well. They also don’t help the unions. By continuing to hold out for salary increases, unions have hurt their credibility, and that’s a price they’ll have to pay in years to come.
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