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Somerville weighs raise for non-union workers

Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 02:10


Nick Pfosi / The Tufts Daily

The Somerville Board of Aldermen is considering a pay raise for 150 non-union workers whose salaries have not seen an increase in six years.


The Somerville Board of Aldermen is deliberating on a salary raise for 150 non-union workers that will total over $1.1 million — the first compensation adjustment in six years, Director of Communications for the City of Somerville Thomas Champion said.  

To determine the amount by which non-union workers’ salaries should increase, the City of Somerville’s Municipal Compensation Advisory Board (MCAB) hired the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts, Boston to analyze non-union workers’ job descriptions and salaries. 

Comparing this to similar positions in other communities, MCAB created a report that rates positions based on job difficulty, responsibility and qualifications. 

“It became clear that as a general rule, the salaries in Somerville were well below the average of the comparable municipalities,” the report states. 

“One consequence of paying under the market is high turnover, which costs the City in loss of efficiency, knowledge and training.” 

The Somerville Committee on Legislative Matters met to pursue the recommendations on Sept. 10. Aldermen were assigned to pursue individual aspects of the recommendations, which remain in committee.

“Not only have they proposed salary adjustments, but they have also proposed a new classification system,” Champion said. “The last time that this was done, it was based on a different classification system, and it was based on a very different era for compensation.”

The Collins Center also recommended a multi-step program for future salary increases, with raises being tied to performance. 

In an open letter to the Board of Aldermen, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone endorsed the MCAB’s report and recommended the Board approve the salary raises for non-union workers.  

“We need a compensation system that rewards the productivity of this extraordinary workforce while allowing us to recruit and retain the best possible professionals to manage and deliver municipal services,” Curtatone said.  “This plan meets that challenge while, at the same, striking a balance with our need to manage scarce public resources as efficiently as possible.”

If the Board of Aldermen approves the salary raises, they will begin retroactively on July 1, 2012, the beginning of the fiscal year, Champion said. 

“It is customary in collective bargaining for many government agencies for the contracts to lapse for a period before a new agreement is signed,” Champion said. “The core principle here, the orienting principle of this process, is to allow the city to recruit and retain the best possible workforce.” 

MCAB’s report also included a recommendation to increase the mayor’s salary by $20,000, but the mayor did not endorse this element.

“While I urge you to support all the other findings of this study, and make them law, I therefore hope you will exercise your own best judgment when it comes to accepting or rejecting any recommendations concerning my compensation and that of future mayors,” Curtatone said. 

—James Pouliot contributed reporting to this article.

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