Saturday, February 26, 2011

Who Else, Indeed....

I keep seeing this rather silly point raised in relation to public sector unions:
They're influential in a special way: Who else gets to help choose the people who set your salary?
To start with, many CEO's of publicly traded companies, whose pay trends toward the astronomical with little regard for performance. Except when was the last time you heard somebody decry a CEO's often disproportionate influence in the choice, compensation and retention of those who set his pay while the board was simultaneously slashing his salary. I'll make that even simpler: When was the last time you heard of a board slashing a CEO's salary?1

There's something incongruous about making such a claim is made about public sector unions, even as they're threatened with abolition by elected officials.
1. CEO salaries are, it seems, often set by "Lake Wobegon" standards.


  1. How about a, hopefully, less silly point.

    I don't think that civil or if you prefer "public" servants should have all the same "rights" regarding the negotation of benefits, going on strike, etc that "private side" employees do.

    Just like we gave up some rights under the Hatch Act in regards to political activies. You get the benefits of civil service, you also trade off some rights.

    Why don't the states address the compensation issue by using the Federal system as a model. Have the legislature establish a compensation system (similar to the GS and SES systems) and then let the unions negotiate everything that isn't a reserved management right or compensation? The civil servants get more procedural rights than "at will" employees, but hey, they also can't go on strike or get profit sharing - it's all about trade-offs.


  2. I don't have a problem with substituting civil service laws for part of what might otherwise go into a CBA.

    I have to say that I'm not particularly thrilled with compensation systems such as are often used in government organizations. (Not that private firms don't often follow similar models.) Although I understand why they exist. It seems that they often result in long-tenured employees getting paid considerably more than new hires, without regard to performance, and in constructs that make it difficult to advance within an organization - that is, it seems that it's usually easier to quit and apply for work elsewhere in order to get a raise or 'promotion' than it is to attempt to do so within the organization.

  3. I'm prepared to concede all of your points - but I'll note that the alternative tends to be some form of "performance pay" and my experience (mostly in DoD) is that unions "hate" that.*


    * Although to be fair, it seems that the scientists at NIST like it just fine.

  4. There are good reasons to be wary of a strong emphasis on "performance". Performance can be hard to measure, and measurements can often be subjective and/or arbitrary. Exaggerated claims of good and bad performance can easily translate into offering raises and promotions based upon nothing but favoritism.

  5. . . . which brings us back to a system that, ". . . result in long-tenured employees getting paid considerably more than new hires, without regard to performance . . . "


  6. Only in part. When you don't have scheduled raises an employer will look to the market when setting wages. When you do, an employee can end up being paid considerably above market rate for an employee with similar qualifications and experience simply by virtue of having held the position for a long time.


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