No raises for St. John workers

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 11, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / August 11, 2000

LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish employees with 15 or more years ofservice won’t be getting a raise anytime soon.

By a vote of 6-3 the parish council shot down a plan by the parish administration that would have given longtime employees a much-needed raise.

The plan, presented by St. John Parish Chief Administrative Officer ChrisGuidry, included $100,000 that would go to raises for employees who had 15 years of seniority. The plan also laid the groundwork for a handbook on rulesand regulations for all parish employees. The regulations would have set inplace a grievance process in which unhappy employees could have gone to the administration and the Civil Service with complaints.

“We think our plan is a fair plan,” Guidry told the council. “It is not a perfectdocument, but it is the most perfect plan we can put together.”But Dale Wolfe was not satisfied with the administration’s efforts.

“What about the employees who have 14 years or less?” Wolfe asked Guidry.

“If they don’t get equalized now, they will never get it. It doesn’t make senseto only do half the project. We need to do it all.”Guidry said, “This administration wants to remedy the disparities of the past.

We did not set the pay scale, but we are trying to help out.”Guidry said he knows of a parish employee who has been working for 20 years and is only making $9 an hour.

“That is despicable,” said Guidry, “and we want to do something about it.”Guidry also told the council the administration is committed to hiring a human resources officer to handle personnel problems. The administration alsopledged to help out employees who want to continue their training and education.

“We will pay 100 percent of an employee’s training if they want to improve themselves,” said Guidry.

But Wolfe was adamant.

“Submit the whole package,” Wolfe told Guidry, “or other employees will be left on the wayside.”Guidry said this is the first time in parish history that an administration has sat down and talked with every parish employee about wages.

“If we missed someone,” said Guidry, “we did it by mistake and we will get with them.”Lester Rainey was also concerned that the administration’s plan didn’t go far enough in helping the employees.

“I’ve been told that this plan has been rammed down the employees’ throats,” Rainey said. “I want this plan to be inclusionary, but I feel that St. John Parishis becoming exclusionary. I will vote no because we should not bepatchworking anything here.”Guidry replied, “Our plan is indiscriminate. It allows everyone with 15 yearsseniority to get a decent wage. This is just the first step in the process, andit affects more than half of the employees and it is within our budgetary limits.”Council Chairwoman Melissa Faucheux called a brief recess because a disgruntled parish worker kept interrupting the proceedings, saying he had a right to speak.

After the recess Duaine Duffy reminded everyone that Wolfe has been working on the pay equalization issue since 1978.

“But now we have to move forward,” said Duffy. “This plan is not aconclusion, but we need to start somewhere. The biggest problem is theemployees with 15 years seniority making less than employees who have been working for less than one-year employees. This is the right thing to do.$100,000 is a step in the right direction.”Duffy also reminded the council this is an issue that should be handled by the Civil Service Commission.

Wolfe retorted, “We shouldn’t give our employees a reason to go to the Civil Service.”Ranney Wilson wondered, “When will this be over?” A vote on the plan lost 6-3 with Duffy, Wilson and Steve Lee voting for it.

The employee who had disrupted the meeting stormed out of the council chambers after the vote muttering, “We are never going to get a raise.”After the meeting, an obviously frustrated Guidry said the administration is still committed to hiring a personnel director and paying for employee training.

“Our goal is an on-going process,” said Guidry. “Our plan casts a net wideenough so that it covered a majority of the employees.”

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