Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Norco Workers: The Facts About Hay, They'll Raise Your Pay

The Hay Group, an organization hired to conduct a comparative pay study in Northampton County, is simply the best in the business, representing over 7,000 clients with 88 offices in 47 countries. Of course, the county could simply rely on information from CCAP about what is paid for similar jobs in similar counties, but who is to say they are similar? So the county is spending $115 thousand for a salary study of its 2,000 person workforce. It is widely agreed that, once this is done, nearly everyone who works for the county will be making more money.

As a first step, a questionnaire was mailed to every county employee with a due date of December 28. Although I am no county employee, I remember this very clearly because I heard people from many different offices talk about it.

Last week, I told you that a new deadline of February 28 has been set because many county workers simply had no time to complete these forms. At the time, I mildly made this observation to county workers. "Are you out of your frickin' minds??? Fill out the damn forms and get them in. Forge if necessary. Ask me to fill them out. But if you like a living wage, get them in."

Like a dripping faucet, the complaints began to pour in.

1) The questionnaire is totally unnecessary.

2) The Hay pay study is bogus.

3) Department heads are not letting employees complete these questionnaires on county time.

4) They are only late because HR did not even send them to some departments until February.

5) John Conklin, Director of Administration, failed to submit his own report by December 28. It's all his fault.

The Facts

As I mentioned at the time, neither the pay study nor the questionnaire is bogus. Hay is very real, and the first thing it asked for was something that would describe what each worker does and how long it takes for her to do it. I also mentioned, and the Human Resources Department confirmed, that these periodic reviews are required. Monday I actually sat down with Director Connie Falk-Sutton and Personnel Analyst Linda Markwarth. As Connie explained to me, "We're trying to do it right and completely ... to make sure we're competitive."

Instead of whispers and rumors, here are the facts.

On November 15, a memo and questionnaire was sent to every county worker. It was up to each department head to decide how many employees should fill out the report. If five or six people in one department do the exact same thing, it would only be necessary to get a representative sampling. At the time the memo was sent, a return date of December 28 was established. The Hay group would begin its work once it started receiving the paperwork.

On December 28, roughly one-third of the questionnaires were returned. They were immediately forwarded to Hay.

On January 4, Linda Markwarth contacted each department that had not returned its questionnaire and stressed its importance. She believes there was and remains a "lot of anxiety." In the meantime, her own office has undergone training for this evaluation. As questionnaires have been turned in, they've been forwarded to Hay.

As of yesterday, questionnaires have been completed for only 232 out of 286 different job classifications.

Supervisors have been instructed that these questionnaires are to be completed on county time. If an employee is unable to do so because of work demands, OT must be offered. Sutton-Falk tells me in one instance, she did get a phone call from a union rep who reported a supervisor demanding that employees fill out these forms on their own time. "It took me all of three minutes to resolve that issue," she said.

Director of Administration John Conklin did fail to fill out his own report in a timely fashion. "I blew it," he admitted. "I made sure everyone under me had theirs in, but I didn't think mine was that important."

As it turns out, he's right. Sutton-Falk explained that the Hay study really has no application to cabinet level officials, whose roles are set by the executive and who serve at his pleasure.

Conklin turned his report in a few days ago, and apparently likes gladiator movies. Stoffa shot him.

Yesterday was the first time I sat down and really talked to Sutton-Falk. She's got a rep as a person who can be acerbic, and maybe that's why we hit it off so well. She's very sharp and answered every question.

I liked her.

She and one of her top deputies met me with just one day's notice. Halfway through the meeting, I learned that Linda's son was in the emergency room with a medical emergency, and it sounded serious. She was obviously upset, but wanted people to know the truth.

When she finally did leave, I turned to Sutton-Falk and asked, "She stayed for this?"

Falk shrugged and said, "I could not keep her away. She cares too much."

Finally alone, I asked Connie, "So, what's your sign?" She threw me off the courthouse roof.

With people like them in human resources, Northampton County employees are in good hands. That's my assessment as an outsider. As far as those questionnaires go, git 'er done. You'll only be hurting yourself by letting things go.


Anonymous said...

First there was 'Love Story' and now this. I hope you guys get an Oscar next year.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's my perspective. I'm on the outside, looking in. When employees had no contract, I was very vocal in my criticism. But in this instance, they are trying to help you. I felt really bad that Linda M had a serious problem w/ her son, yet stayed to talk to me. I'm sorry this failed to put your mind at ease.

Anonymous said...

could this be an indication of a workforce that is, in no small part, spoiled and petulant?

with respect to the length of time they worked without a contract-maybe the bulk of the blame could be laid to rest at the feet of the employees as well? negotiations are hard work, and both sides have to put forth considerable effort to reach a contract. is this episode illustrative of the effort the workers put forward re the negotiations?

Anonymous said...

Hey - dem county wage slaves are just trying to save the county taxpayers some money. In fact, my unit is going to volunteer to take a 25% pay cut.

Anonymous said...

From this and your previous post, I'm disappointed in the county workforce. They do sound spoiled and petulant, almost like little kids. Let's see them try that shit and the real world and see how long they last.

Anonymous said...

Just like you can:
Lead a horse to water....
Lead a civil servant to paperwork...

The results are the same. Surf the web till lunch, eat lunch, then nap till time to leave.

ha ha ha, sorry this all seems too unreal.


Anonymous said...

You are always going to have a few malcontents. You can't judge the County workers by the comments of a few. The fact of the matter is that the majority of County workers already have long term contracts with the county. No Hay report is going impact current contracts. I sincerely doubt that the County will look at this report and say "wow, we are paying our people too little, let's reopen the contact and give them more money". If you believe that Bernie, you officially need to be medicated. In regard to Sutton Falk, you are probably correct. Your reputation is probably on par with hers.Therefore I would guess that the County employees wouldn't want you to be head of human resources either. No offense..

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:05,

No I don't think the county would re-open a prevously negotiated contract on the basis of the Hay report. I do think it will be a basis for getting employees a living wage next time that slaries are negotiated. I do believe that. In fact, I think that's the goal. And I'm already on lots and lots of medication.

As far as respective reputations are concerned, Sutton-Falk is much nicer. I can guarantee you that I would not do well in human resources anywhere. Maybe I can become a diplomat.

Anonymous said...


I know her..I know you..Believe it or not, and I hate to burst your wickedness bubble,but YOU are much nicer...My point about the contracts is that this is a reason I believe many have not been returned..You say the goal is to offer a living wage.
Well, they could have done that in the contracts, no? You don't need to pay consultants to realize your work force is underpaid.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 1:07,

Listen, you %^&*, I'm a prick! Got that??

As far as the contracts are concerned, you are mistaken. The county is bouncing from union to union - there are 11 - day after day. A complete pay study is needed.

Anonymous said...

To make you feel better I should state that being much nicer than Connie Sutton Falk still leaves you in the pathetically evil category. OK?

Anonymous said...

How could anything or anyone be more important than your son in an emmergancy room i mean really you got to be kidding.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 5:48,

Linda M read some of the very nasty comments in the prior post and felt compelled to remain as long as necessary to set the record striaight. She didn't want some asshole to complain.

Frankly, I'd be out that door.

Anonymous said...

Sorry BO , I think someone with a seriously ill child says I have to go. You believe what you want. To much overkill in the encounter you guys had. I agree with first poster. You are a Stoffa guy and no one was surprised by your report. Just an opinion.

Anonymous said...

Would someone please educate me as to what is a "living wage" in the LV? I'd like a specific dollar amount.

Anonymous said...

Anonn 11:56

It is what ever John Stoffa says it is like most other things.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 11:56, A living wage is just that - the amount of money you would need to enable you to live throughout a year without going into poverty. It varies from area to area. PSU actually has a living wage calculator.

In Nazareth, it breaks down like this:
1 adult - 11.85
1 adult, one child - 15.05
2 adults - 11.67
2 adults, one child - 17.06
2 adults, 2 kids - 21.32

A typical weage for an office worker in Nazareth is 11.06, under the living wage.

Anonymous said...

You are such a crock of sh@t! You liked her? Go figure, guess birds of a feather huh? You ain't blowing smoke up no one a&& Bernster. You didn't talk to the county employees or you wouldn't write this hog wash. What is up with you? No offense to anyone medically diagnosed but you have MPD. You write such touching stories about the homeless and Villa's daughter then you turn around and a%$ kiss NC admin. Just about every in NC has their own not so nice name for Sutton-Falk. What ever Bern, what ever. Crock - that's all I have to say - bogus crock.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am fully aware that Connie has a bad reputation and have heard it from plenty of people. But I always judge people on what I see in person instead of listening to what others tell me I must think.

I like her. Her dress code is nuts, but I like her. I won't be jumping on the "Let's gang up on Connie" bandwagon anytime soon.

As far as the suggestion that Linda M was making up her medical emergency is concerned, some people are beyond hope. That's really sad.

Anonymous said...

after reading the deranged paranoia evidenced by several of the posters here (no, not you for once bern), one can only assume that the County is augmenting its workforce through a secret cloning program involving generations of selective in-breeding.

Bernie O'Hare said...

How did you find this out?

Anonymous said...

i know people

Anonymous said...

reading this living wage makes me so angry.........considering that a clerical technician III at the county starts at less than $10.50--and being in the tax office does not anywhere near equal your regular "officeworker". The union I feel hasn't helped--how is it possible that we waited approximately 4 years for a raise for less than a lousy dollar?? I've already been here to discuss how many co-workers of mine that "need" 2nd jobs just to 'barely' get by----I even wanted to mention this in your blog about the "county" (laughable--we have a county doing research on the poverty levels in our county, but they refuse to recognize HOW BAD CERTAIN EMPOYEES OF THEIR OWN that qualify for poverty level???) But what good is this hay study going to do for the residual unit, now under a contract, for the next several years?? With rumors of the price of gas (and other things) increasing even more, its no wonder employees feel/believe it won't do any good--the county won't overwrite a set union contract just to pay us more---it's okay to pump court workers with 20%-30% raises, but "those other workers over here" aren't even worth a dollar raise??? and we can't argue this because how many times did the council refuse to negotiate and okay the union's wage increase proposals?? I can't even stress the anger/frustration/stress that we feel concerning the county and the revenue office and the extreme workload that is required of us, only to hear rumors that things will get better, well we don't see anything happening and it's apparent the people in charge aren't even dropping by with concern about the status of turnover and staff shortage in the dept. So, will they wait until there are no employees in our unit to take in the county money?? Yeh, its good to be positive about this study but when your'e a county employee that is getting shafted and trampled every day of work and there is no end in site of the stress and workload and you go home at the end of the day wondering where the money will come to pay the bills, especially medical ones because of the ridiculous choice in medical benefits we have (wasn't this way years ago I'm told--what's changed?? and why?) of course we're going to blast this blog with bad attitude and little to no hope for any raise soon.

.........just me rambling again, stressing--thanks again for doing research on the subject.

Anonymous said...

Annon 12:10

Let us all level with each other. Employees, after the Reibman payfreeze a group of people fanned the flames of anger and wanted Reibman out. Goofy issues like reserved parking, which Court folks still get, was used to show us why change was good. We were sold Stoffa, claiming employees would get what employees want and everything would be right with the world. Guess what, Stoffa comes in and has selective memory about his campaign promises and everyone waits for a contract.
Naturally the pro-Stoffa union organizers are getting a lot of heat and finally settle a terrible contract. Mr. ('Contact! I don't need no stinking Contract') Stoffa shares some blame but a great deal of blame is on the employee revolt leaders. Feeling lonely, too bad. You got your guy in with all those promises and now you have egg on your face, while people struggle for a living wage. Employees may have been better off with Reibman, at least he was straight with the workforce.

Anonymous said...

reading all this about the horrible county working condidtions leaves me to wonder-what is the County's annual employee turnover rate? if the workload is so much, and the recompense so low, turnover should be in the area of 15-20%. does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

what about the people who are topped out with their wages? There are people who have worked for the county for 16,17,18,19,20,21,22 years and so on that make that same wages? Why should a 25 year veteran make the same as a 16 year employee?

Anonymous said...

i guess the question is the same. if these senior managers (who have vested a pension) are so underpaid for what they do, why aren't they leaving the county in droves? the answer of course, is that they aren't underpaid. county workers have extraordinary health and pension benefits, and job security, when compared to the private sector. most of them recognize this, and despite public complaints about how over-worked and underpaid they are, would never leave the nurturing womb of the county.

there are of course exceptions (probably at the lower clerical levels), and hopefully the Hay study will identify any disparities.

Anonymous said...

Senior managers? Who's talking about them? For that matter who really cares? Yes, there is a HUGE exception. There are clerical staff who have worked for the county for over 20 years and make $14.50 an hour. New hires are to make $10.50 an hour. Remember, the clerical staff are the ones who are keeping track of tax bills, and are responsible for HUNDREDS of different types of legal documents. Yes, I realize these people could hop in their cars and commute hours on end back and forth every week into New Jersey and New York, but remember, there are jobs to be done right here in Northampton County and all people are asking for is a LIVING WAGE. There is also a saying that "hey you don't like it, quit. There are a hundred people waiting in line to take your place". BUT..people come in to these offices for interviews and see how much work they have to do and then look at the pay scale and say Thanks, but no thanks.

Anonymous said...

if what you say is true, then surely the turnover rate in these offices must be extraordinary, no?

Anonymous said...

Turnover is out of control.

Anonymous said...

In response to anonymous 8:05 am:

I work in the tax department--and no, the medical benefits in the county, though at one time they were really good, aren't so great now. But, compared to the private sector, at least we can have the guarantee of having "something". We have to contribute from our (barely there) wages to have these benefits, as well as pay the other outragious bills we can expect to pay the doctors and pharmacists. I just had to pay $160 for a pair of glasses, when a coworker of mine said that years ago they would only have had to pay a $1. Big difference now in what we get in benefits and how little we receive in wages--some of us can't afford to go the doctors to pay the copayments.........so we stay sick and deal with it, or look for that 2nd or 3rd job to help pay for it.

Second of all, yes the turnover in our office is ridiculous, but I believe because of the job security of working in a government position, instead of moving out, the employees are just moving "somewhere else in the county"--which has been the case for the many co-workers I have had the pleasure to work with and then see them move on and out. This is great if you can get a position say in courts or in higher management---but as mentioned, the clerical level positions like the ones in our department are not sought after within the county, and the pay rate pretty much scares off the potentials coming in from the outside, (except ones that only want to get into the government to upgrade to that better position). Believe me, I worked in a data entry position (I SAID DATA ENTRY--ONE OF THE LOWEST PAID CLERICAL JOBS AROUND--FOR $15 AN HOUR IN BRIDGEWATER NJ) and when I was being interviewed for this position I chastised myself day and night saying that I'd be crazy to take such a low-paying position in the county for what was to be expected of me. But here's the situation--I am a single mom of a school aged child, driving an outragious distance, not getting home til late, just to make a "decent" wage for doing what I went to school to do, for a temporary agency, who does not provide medical benefits and who could drop me anytime because the position is temporary---or I could suck it up, take this overworked,underpaid position, be only 5 minutes away from my kid in case of an emergency, have job security, reduce wear and tear on my car and save myself a lot of aggravation and stress from traffic. What's my option?? Of course the job security and potential of moving other places within the government was really pleasing, as well as being so close to home.......but that still doesn't change the facts that I was being paid $9.75/hour to do what??---and waited over 1 1/2 years for that silly union contract to finally get settled to make what??--10.46/hour?? Wow, what a raise------still not a living wage, and still not "worthy" for the job description, detail, and workload thats in our office.

In comparison, the Bucks county tax claim department makes $30,000 a year.......and they only do tax claim. Northampton county tax department does tax claim, current real estate, and state licenses together, and we start at around $21,600............where's the comparison here?? So you see, you will never see another county employee seek out a position in our office, since they can get paid the same amount of money to do about 1/2 the amount of work in another department.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions.........I believe that any senior manager wouldn't be blogging and complaining like a lot of other county employees, especially since it seems (from reading Bernie's blog) they are the ones who don't feel it's necessary to finish the hay study questionare. There is no way shape or form any comparison to what some county employees make next to others---and I believe this is what is most upsetting to employees like myself, who don't see the equality in some of the different positions that are offered in the county, the wages just don't make any rhyme or reason and are in no way fair if put side by side----and having to wait years for a raise while watching so many others get more than their share----well, just put yourself in our positions and shoes and I'm sure you would then understand where I'm coming from and why so many of us are so miserable and quick to complain about the county they work for.

Anonymous said...

2008 New Hire $10.76 per hour
Employee working in the same position for 20 years $14.65 per hour. Difference $3.90

Anonymous said...

anon 6:03

thank you. that was a well written and thoughtful response to my questions.

Anonymous said...

I don't know who you got your information from but there was never a time that you could get glasses for $1.00

Anonymous said...

You all pushed this guy for executive and the chairperson of the Personnel committee Ann McHale got the Healthcare Company she wanted. Thanks all, for nothing.