Camas accepts salary study as bargaining tool

City Council members approve 2-percent increase for non-union employees instead of adopting study recommendations

Eight months after commissioning an independent review of city employee salaries, the Camas City Council voted 6-1 to accept the compensation study report and allow city staff to use the research as a tool for negotiating with unions, but stressed that the vote did not mean councilors were approving the consultants’ recommendations.

“I see accepting the study as accepting the work this consultant has done to date,” said Councilwoman Shannon Turk during a July 17 council meeting. “It’s just a thank you for providing the report … it doesn’t bind us to anything or change anything.”

Other councilors worried that accepting the report would signal that the city agreed with the recommendations suggested by the consultant, HR Answers, Inc.

“If we’re accepting it, but they’re going to use it for bargaining purposes, then the employees in the unions will see it as the actual pay scale, unless i’m totally off base,” commented Councilwoman Melissa Smith.

Councilman Don Chaney opposed approving or even accepting the compensation study, saying that he had spent “a fair amount of time” reviewing the recommendations within the city’s finance committee as well as in executive session, and felt uneasy voting yes to accepting HR Answers’ report.

“I’m still not convinced that it’s time to adopt this,” Chaney said Monday. “The scope of the survey was broader geographically than I expected and included private as well as public employees.”

Chaney added that he was concerned that the report had been made public before all of the concerns posed by council members in closed sessions, public work sessions and finance committee meetings had been addressed and said he would have wanted the city to have more input from labor groups before bringing the study into the public realm.

Camas City Administrator Pete Capell told council members that city staff has been “very clear with the collective bargaining groups” that the report was to be considered a starting point for negotiations and not something that would be set in stone when it came to determining salary schedules.

Included in the report were the current salary benchmarks for 68 city of Camas positions, with recommendations for increasing or decreasing those benchmarks based on the consultant’s research of similar positions and wages in other cities and library systems.

The report shows the city’s recommendations regarding pay scales, which often did not match with the suggestions posed by HR Answers. In fact, some of the salary study rates were very different — for example, while the city’s recommendations for a “Grounds Worker I” position show a slight decrease from the city’s current pay scale, going from $4,047 a month at the lowest pay step to $3,728 and from $4,830 at the highest pay step to $4,465, the consultant’s recommendations would decrease the position’s pay scale even more drastically, reducing the lowest pay scale by $1,111 a month and the highest by $1,314.

Likewise, some of the recommended pay scale increases are much different: While the city’s recommended salary increases for Camas’ “information technology director” would bump that position’s salary up by $598 on the low end and $741 on the high end, the consultants recommended increasing the position’s pay scale by $2,659 on the low end and $3,211 on the high end, bringing the position’s monthly pay in line with the city’s finance director, at $9,697 at the first step and $11,616 at the highest step.

Capell said the recommendations were simply a tool for bargaining with union reps, but councilors were still concerned about the consultants’ recommendations for non-union employees.

After accepting the salary study, councilors discussed whether they wanted to adopt the salary suggestions for non-represented employees or adopt the 2-percent cost-of-living increase they had already included in the city’s 2017 budget.

In the end, the council voted to adopt a resolution to create a 2017 salary scale for non-represented employees with an increase of 2 percent over 2016 wages. The resolution also included hourly wages for seasonal and temporary employees and interns. Some councilors wanted to see the increase be retroactive, going back to January, but Capell said staff had checked with legal counsel and discovered that this would be prohibited by the state as a “gift of public funds.”

To learn more about the HR Answers’ salary study and to see a full list of the consultants’ recommendations for the 68 city employee positions, visit www.cityofcamas.us and click on the “Minutes, Agendas and Videos” link under the “Your Government” tab. There is video of the July 17 City Council meeting and a link to the report in the July 17 “Meeting Details.”