Tag Archives: Chico Public Works employees express concerns about salary disparity

Orme is lying when he says city employees have not received raises since 2013 – management salaries have gone up while worker salaries remain stagnant

9 Dec

Fighting a lying machine like Mark Orme is tough. You know what they say – liars never sleep. Over the last few days, we’ve been hearing about a group of Chico Public Works employees who went before council the other night to expose the disparity of pay in the PW Department. I’ve always noticed that the lower-level workers get paid squat compared to management. Here’s the story from Action News in Chico:

https://www.actionnewsnow.com/content/news/City-of-Chico-Public-Works-employees-express-concerns-at-the-City-Council-meeting-tonight-575880811.html

CHICO, Calif. – Dozens of City of Chico Public Works employees were at the City Council meeting tonight sharing their concern with low wages and lack of workers to the council. 

The story quotes one senior worker who makes the usual complaints about losing employees and difficulty in recruiting due to low wages. We’ve all seen the result – just drive around town. So I looked at the secty of state’s website, publicpay.gov, as well as Transparent California. Both sites depend on information given by the agencies, and most agencies aren’t too anxious to hand over this information. So you see some discrepancies, mostly due to how they list the figures. Let’s take a look at Erik Gustafson, who is listed under “Operations and Maintenance Director”, or by his original title, “Public Works Director”.

https://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?q=Erik+Gustafson

https://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/PositionDetail.aspx?employeeid=27693769

On both sites you’ll see that his salary has gone up every year. Contrary to claims made by City Manager Mark Orme. In an interview with Chico Enterprise Record, Orme claimed city employees haven’t had raises for years.

Look at those two sites – they have slightly different figures, but both show a steady increase. According to TC, Gustafson’s salary has gone up every year, from total pay (which includes overtime and holiday pay but not benefits) of $132,623.06 in 2016, to total pay of $144,482.54 in 2019. Public Pay lists his 2020 salary at $147,925.

But look at the “workers” salaries. You need a name to search TC, but here’s the page from publicpay.gov that shows the disparity.

Three “supervisors” in the $90,000 range, then a sudden drop to $68,000/year for the highest paid “senior worker”. Also note the disparity in the benefits packages – hey, guess what, management pays the least contribution at 9% of cost. You also see another problem with Chico – top-heavy management. Two managers? One of those positions was just created by Orme earlier this year. Both making in excess of $100,000 to sit in the office buffing their fingernails? While the guys who drive the heavy equipment and man the shovels are living on less than $70,000/year? In Chico? No. I wasn’t surprised to hear their union rep say they can’t even afford to live in town.

So here’s the rest of that piece from Chico Action News. There’s another article in the ER, linked above. I wish the workers would point out what I just pointed out, but you know, they’re afraid to push too hard, might get fired. But Orme is obviously trying to use workers’ complaints to insinuate that the taxpayers are the problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if Orme is behind this grandstanding. Don’t buy it.

“Ultimately, we wanted to point out to them that we have a serious situation with our wages and we’re trying to gain their support and trying to do that through educating them on what we do and what we bring to the city, what we bring to the table. Hopefully they got the message,” said senior maintenance worker James Erven. 

Erven tells Action News Now they have lost 12 people in the last four years to higher paying jobs and have several people who are constantly looking for new positions.

“We have positions that starting wage is beneath minimum wage, that’s a problem. We have a hard time recruiting qualified candidates,” said Erven

There was not an agenda item topic regarding this issue, but public works employees shared these issues to the council during the business on the floor portion of the meeting. 

Three employees shared their concerns, then they all left the meeting. City Council heard their concerns. Our reporter reached out to council members, but was unable to get a statement from them regarding these issues

The area director for the union representing public works, Del Mallory tells me these employees have not received a pay raise in 11 – 12 years and several can’t afford to live in the city. He says they are finally putting their foot down and addressing this issue.

“We finally reached this breaking point where folks are fed up and they’re ready to fight. That’s why we’re here because we need to engage our city council into this conversation so they know that we’re serious and that we need them to bargain with us in good faith,” said Mallory. 

He says their next bargaining meeting is tomorrow, and that they are determined to get what they need.

“We will bargain with the intent to get a deal, but we are willing to do whatever it takes to get a good deal,” said Mallory. 

City Council also directed the City Attorney’s Office to analyze the cannabis ordinance, so they can revisit the topic in a future meeting. The council was also introduced to ARDA Demographics tonight as their representative said there will be two public hearings regarding redistricting before any maps are created.