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Merit Pay Discussion Recap

We wanted to share with you an in-depth look at our advocacy efforts this week.

We spoke with the Governor’s staff last week asking when Merit pay was going to be announced. They told us late Friday and nothing was released. Monday we were forwarded the release. We immediately started contacting legislators as to why "solid performers" were left out and asking them to use their influence to persuade the Governor to add solid performers to the list as there is an unwritten rule that employees have to fit a metric and thus the majority are graded a three regardless of their individual performance. We then reached out to our membership and asked you to contact members of the personnel committee while we arranged to meet with the Governor’s staff and setting up meetings with legislators.

You did an excellent job reaching out and advocating. Members of the committee said they received thousands of emails and one was quoted as saying that they have never received so many emails concerning an issue. Thank you for your efforts.

We had a conversation with the Governor Tuesday morning and she told us to meet with her legislative liaisons. ASEA and the Governor’s liaisons met that afternoon. Although we both agreed that the evaluation process is flawed and needs to be changed, we did not see eye to eye on why "solid performers" should be included in merit rewards. Their argument was that by also including solid performers, it would be like awarding almost 95% of the employee population a merit which would be almost the same as giving a cost of living adjustment.

They also stated that they just learned as a new administration that evaluations had stipulations attached as supervisors were told that the majority of state employees were to be graded a solid performer(3). This is an issue that we have been hearing from our members for years and how upsetting and unfair it is. We agree. It was brought up in yesterday’s committee meeting that this has to be changed. More on this later.

The Governor’s liaisons told us that they then extended the deadline and sent a memo to agency secretaries to re-evaluate employees without bell curve stipulations. We do not believe that this late in the process the memo had enough time to get local managers of agencies out in the field.

Next was the media. To our knowledge we have been quoted in three statewide newspaper articles, appeared on Channel 7 and Channel 11, and some of our members provided their own testimony regarding their situations. This is the most media attention we have seen regarding a state employee issue in a long time. We have included links. See below.

Yesterday’s personnel committee meeting had some bright spots for the long term but they stated that the decision of awarding merit is an executive order that they cannot overturn. Our hope was that the attention to this issue would persuade the Governor to amend her decision.

Legislators and the Governor are going to change the evaluation process. Both cited that having a "bell curve" or "metrics" is the wrong way of evaluating employees and that will be removed. ASEA approached both parties and asked to be a part of the process of creating a new evaluation system and we agreed to work together as we know from your feedback what works and what does not work. That is the bright spot. Your dedication and hard work will be the core of your evaluation.

Another observation is that when the merit pay went to the base of your salary, it is our opinion that is why COLA's were removed from the pay plan because this was the way employees could move up in their salary and fight inflation. Removing solid performers from this year’s merit has disrupted that system.

There were comments from legislators about expediting the pay plan set to be proposed in the fall/winter and if there was not something we could do for these employees later this year.

Our focus will remain to fight for the solid performers, lobby to expedite a new pay plan, and to assist in creating an equitable and fair employee evaluation process for everyone.

We pulled out all the stops to battle this issue. We are upset, frustrated, and we know that you are upset as well. Please contact myself or Mr. Poole if you have ideas, concerns, or want to talk more about this or any other issue. 501-378-0187. John Bridges, Director.

This is a segment of an article from a 0615/2023 Democrat Gazette article written by Mike Wickline.

Snippet from news outlet 4029:

Rep. Pilkington said he has heard concerns from some constituents about pay raises for state employees.

"Inflation is hitting everyone really hard. We spent a lot of money increasing teacher pay. We still have money in a lot of places and obviously state employees are vital for the operation of the state. Some of them have felt that they have not gotten the raises they think they deserve," he said.

Snippet from an Arkansas Times article written by Austin Bailey:

“Not in my 14 years has this happened,” Arkansas State Employee Association Director John Bridges said Tuesday evening. But he spoke optimistically about plans to take up the issue again soon, possibly during a special session or fiscal session of the Arkansas legislature later this year.

“The waiting game is tough, and it’s a disappointment. I want to have faith that they want a solid, motivated workforce,” Bridges said. He said he had spoken with the governor’s team and there’s room for progress.

Hope isn’t in great supply, however, among an increasingly loud chorus of state employees who say workers who do their jobs well and meet expectations should be rewarded. Arkansas State Employees Association social media accounts teemed with frustration Tuesday.

Link to a KTHV news report:

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