The Butler County Job and Family Services union has agreed for the first time to a purely performance pay compensation package in the new three-year deal. Barbara Fabelo, chief financial officer for Butler County’s Department of Job and Family Services, works in her office. STAFF PHOTO

Butler County Job and Family Services approves new union deal with merit pay

The commissioners recently ratified a new three-year contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union that mirrors the merit pay plan for non-union employees under the commissioner’s control. The plan awards base pay and lump sum bonus increases based on performance evaluations. If employees are at the top of their pay range, they can only receive the lump sum bonus portion of the pay plan.

JFS Executive Director Bill Morrison said the percentage portion of the plan will cost $59,000 and the lump sum $63,000, only one union member has topped out of the salary range and can only get the lump sum. The crucial point in this new contract is employees need to perform well to get the maximum allowable — the range is 1 to 3 percent in both parts of the plan — raise, not just show up for work, according to Morrison.

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“We believe fully in the concepts of pay for performance,” he said. “It changes our organization for the better. We believe there is a moral argument for pay for performance, that people who do their jobs better should be compensated more.”

The union agreed to a hybrid pay package under the old contract that expires next month. There was an across-the-board, 57-cent pay adjustment but no performance pay for members of the union the first year. In the second and third years of the contract, the two sides agreed to a 2 percent across-the-board raise and merit pay in the 0.25 percent to 1.5 percent range.

Morrison said he believes since there was a component of merit pay under the old deal the workers hopefully felt management dolled out raises fairly.

Union President Melissa Pate didn’t want to share the vote tally for the contract, but she said union members are satisfied.

“Our members realize that all the county contracts are all moving to pay for performance. Our agency is no different. With that in mind, our workers were OK with pay for performance,” she said adding. “The union was very pleased that we were able to come to an agreement with management ahead of the expiration of the existing contract. We felt that it was within the best interest of our workers to settle the contract early.”

The commissioners have been working for a long time trying to get performance pay into union contracts, and now nearly all of the 15 unions in the county have acquiesced to some form of merit compensation. Commissioner T.C. Rogers said it all comes down to one word.

“It is a word that I have used before and is the basis for everything and that’s trust,” he said. “In the long run people just want to feel like they are being treated fairly.”

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