City Council could eliminate Tacoma pay targets

Staff writerApril 7, 2014 

Tacoma City Hall Peter Haley / Staff photographer


Tuesday the Tacoma City Council could change the city’s philosophy on how it compensates its employees.

Since 2008, those compensation goals have included how much the city will pay people based on the amount of money people make around the region doing similar jobs. Last year, the council revised its goal downward, from between the 65th and 75th percentile of market to the 60th percentile. That standard sets the pay of Tacoma workers higher than about 60 percent of workers in the region doing similar work.

If the council approves the latest proposal, the change would remove the percentile goal from the philosophy altogether.

Tacoma Human Resources Director Joy St. Germain said the change was a suggestion of the Fiscal Sustainability Task Force, a group of citizens that met last year. The group examined the city’s finances in hopes of reducing the city’s projected $26 million biennial budget shortfall.

Instead of citing a specific percentile, the revised "compensation philosophy" says the city can offer differing pay levels for non-union employees based on performance — a tenet that Tacoma Public Utilities boss Bill Gaines has said he needs to attract qualified employees to the utility.

Whether this compensation philosophy would impact employees in a union remains to be seen. Last year the state Public Employment Relations Commission ruled that the city engaged in "unfair labor practices" in negotiations with a union that represents more than two dozen employees of Click, the city-owned cable system.

The union’s complaint said the city initially bargained wages at the 70th percentile. But city negotiators lowered the offer to the 60th percentile in October 2012 — 17 months after negotiations began. As a result of PERC’s ruling the city had to go back to the bargaining table and the City Council read a statement into the record: “We unlawfully breached our good-faith bargaining obligations by making a regressive wage proposal.”

With this new compensation philosophy, St. Germain said the city’s goal is to continue to “recruit and retain high quality employees.”

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542

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