OT: Public pay & benefits

User Forum Topic
Submitted by teaboy on October 2, 2010 - 10:51am

Amusing video on public pay & benefits: http://www.fullertonsfuture.org/2010/sto...

What is a fair and equitable rate of pay & benefits for public employees, compared with what people make in the private sector?

tb

Submitted by Aecetia on October 2, 2010 - 2:59pm.

You get what you pay for. If you want to pay bargain basement wages, you will get marginally qualified employees. The less qualified, the more problems, and the more law suits for the municipalities who are for the most part self-insured.

Submitted by paramount on October 2, 2010 - 3:15pm.

If it hasn't already, I hope this video goes viral.

There's so much truth in it....

Submitted by paramount on October 2, 2010 - 3:31pm.

Aecetia wrote:
You get what you pay for. If you want to pay bargain basement wages, you will get marginally qualified employees. The less qualified, the more problems, and the more law suits for the municipalities who are for the most part self-insured.

Yah whatever, I think that was the City of Bell's BS defense too for Robert Rizzo.

Submitted by EconProf on October 2, 2010 - 8:19pm.

Funny video!
Too bad its true for some firefighters.

Submitted by Aecetia on October 2, 2010 - 9:26pm.

Most workers do not get to set their pay scale. What happened in Bell is egregious and that is why they were arrested. Unions and the Dems supporting them have a lot to do with the good pay.

Submitted by CA renter on October 3, 2010 - 1:42am.

Aecetia wrote:
You get what you pay for. If you want to pay bargain basement wages, you will get marginally qualified employees. The less qualified, the more problems, and the more law suits for the municipalities who are for the most part self-insured.

Exactly.

Submitted by EconProf on October 3, 2010 - 7:43am.

Whoa. "You get what you pay for" is one of those cute-sounding phrases that is readily debunked.
It suggests the price or wage you pay is strictly correlated with the value of the purchase. It might be used by a union boss to convince a city council to raise firemen's pay yet again, or a house buyer in 2006 to justify his purchase. (BTW, what is he saying now?).
The video is showing an extreme example of an overpaid fireman in CA that is based on reality. The generous pay and retirement benefits relative to the work performed are wildly above what a free market would yield. But they are the result of union power up against spineless politicians spending other people's money who look only at the short run. Competitive private sector employers would push back and the resulting pay and benefits would be closer to free market realities. That is exactly why the video is so telling--it contrasts the private sector 50-year olds pay and benefits to those of an actual, albeit rare, public sector union guy.

Submitted by GH on October 4, 2010 - 8:51am.

Aecetia wrote:
You get what you pay for. If you want to pay bargain basement wages, you will get marginally qualified employees. The less qualified, the more problems, and the more law suits for the municipalities who are for the most part self-insured.

I think the problem is not if these are the very finest people in all creation, but IF we can afford them. If we based our purchases only on buying the finest quality at the highest price, we would all drive Rolls Royce cars and live in massive mansions, eating only the finest cuisine and flying first class.

When it comes to OUR purchase decisions, we are required to do none of the above or be faced with certain financial doom, yet when the decision is being made for us by others we are required to purchase only the very finest possible labor regardless of consequences and are told we get what we pay for...

First, my experience with government workers does not generally support the quality argument, and second, govt pay and benefits must be bought in line with what we CAN afford. As for the retirement problem, retirees must be held accountable for the failure of their investments going bad just like the rest of us did, when our 401k's tanked.

That said, if we absolutely do need to downsize our government, we should start at the top where the pay is most egregious and the return on investment is the least. I have yet to hear of a single management type being laid off anywhere in California, even when police, fire etc are downsized.

Submitted by sdrealtor on October 4, 2010 - 9:07am.

I dont agree with the finest people argument. A high school friend of mine is a pretty senior fire official back east. He was a full scholarship college athelete. They work in freezing cold weather, in much hotter high humidity weather, they do their work in much older mult-story buildings that are far more prone to collapse. In a nutshell they have much tougher jobs. They make much less and can only afford to live in strictly blue collar, lower middle class neighborhoods.

Submitted by teaboy on October 4, 2010 - 3:34pm.

sdrealtor wrote:
I dont agree with the finest people argument.

sdr,
I also dont agree with that argument. In fact I dont agree with any argument against firefighters, beause:

1. Firefighters have a tough job.
2. Firefighters risk their lives.
3. Other people get paid more than firefighters.
4. Firefighters look sexy in uniforms.
5. Firefighters, like my friend bob, are very nice people.
6. If you dont like firefighters then you should be banned from calling 911 when your house is on fire and you should try to put it out yourself. Ha-ha!

Because of the above reasons and many more good reasons we should not question how much firefighter get paid. If anything it's not enough! ha-ha!

tb

Submitted by sdrealtor on October 4, 2010 - 4:06pm.

Just to clarify I like firefighters, I think thye have tough jobs and everyone I've ever met is a great person. With that said, I think they do get paid too much out here.

Submitted by Turtle69 on October 5, 2010 - 6:07am.

The majority of firefighters in the US are volunteer firefighters. Thes firefighter's perform just as effectively, and at a fraction of the cost as the unionized "professional" firefighters do.

As tough and dangerous as the job is purported to be there seems to be no shortage of people willing to assume the job on a volunteer basis. Municipalities can massively reduce the number of professional firefighter's on their staff's if they are serious about reducing their budget's.

As for benefits it's not a question of what they should be paid, but rather a question of what can be realistically afforded based on the money available. Most public employee pensions simply cannot be afforded and should be massively scaled back or eliminated.

The Turtle

Submitted by SD Transplant on October 5, 2010 - 9:24am.

Let the good times roll:

http://redtape.msnbc.com/2010/10/20-gove...

"12. Escondido City Manager Clay Phillips is not the best paid city manager, though his base salary of $225,000 is nothing to sneeze at. But his contract is typical, and offers benefits most workers could only dream of, inflating the city’s cost of his employment to $326,000. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, he receives than 14 weeks of paid time off every year, along with a $9,000 auto allowance, a $1,000 computer stipend, a full $15,000 contribution to his 401 (k), and a life insurance policy. As another perk, he’s allowed to bring his spouse on up to three conference trips every year, all expenses paid. His contract also has a clause that is somewhat like the “franchise player” status in the NFL. His salary can never drop below the third-highest city manager in San Diego County."

Submitted by sdrealtor on October 5, 2010 - 9:49am.

Now I dont have a problem with that or think that is obscene for a city manager of a fairly large size city. He is essentially the CEO or COO of a good sized company. There is only one of him in that city.

Submitted by davelj on October 5, 2010 - 9:50am.

Turtle69 wrote:

As tough and dangerous as the job is purported to be there seems to be no shortage of people willing to assume the job on a volunteer basis. Municipalities can massively reduce the number of professional firefighter's on their staff's if they are serious about reducing their budget's.

And this applies to police officers, teachers, etc. There are multiples of qualified folks willing to do these jobs (for less compensation) for every opening.

Now, someone could rightfully argue that there are multiples of qualified folks willing to do the Highly Paid CEO's job (for less compensation) as well and yet true market forces don't appear to be fully at play with these positions either. And that's a problem.

The difference, however, is that in the former case the TAXPAYERS' money is at stake while in the latter case PRIVATE money is at stake (with the obvious exception of financial services firms who are on government life support - and these fuckers should have their pay cut WAY back).

Submitted by davelj on October 5, 2010 - 9:58am.

SD Transplant wrote:
His contract also has a clause that is somewhat like the “franchise player” status in the NFL. His salary can never drop below the third-highest city manager in San Diego County."

That's the only part the really bothers me. This is the underlying cause of the massive increases in CEO pay over the last 30 years relative to Everyone Else. Every board of directors, board of supervisors, etc. thinks their CEO/City Manager/[Insert Title Here] is better than average and should be paid accordingly. And what we end up with is just a massive grade inflation that gets worse every year and with a huge compounding effect. It's like Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegone where "all of the children are above average." These clauses disgust me. A better way of going about compensating ANY senior executive is to set up a wide range of specific goals (that actually make sense) and compensate them based on achieving those goals. Still wouldn't be perfect - no compensation system is. But just saying that Joe Blow's comp will not drop below the third-highest paid city manager in Pallucahville is absolutely ridiculous. Whoever approved that sort of contract should be fired on principle.

Submitted by jficquette on October 5, 2010 - 11:02am.

EconProf wrote:
Funny video!
Too bad its true for some firefighters.

Friends next door neighbor is about to retire at 52. Makes well over $100k. Has worked the last 20 years at the airport. The airport firehouse is for one purpose only, and that is to put out fires when planes crash. They do not have responsibility off the airport property.

How many planes have crashed in SD in the last 25 years???

It's likely the guy will draw basically full pay longer after retirement then he worked to "earn" it. So instead of making "just" $125k or so you have to double it. $250k for 20 something years of service?

Submitted by jficquette on October 5, 2010 - 11:00am.

Aecetia wrote:
You get what you pay for. If you want to pay bargain basement wages, you will get marginally qualified employees. The less qualified, the more problems, and the more law suits for the municipalities who are for the most part self-insured.

If we really wanted our money's worth we would fire all them all and let private entities handle it.

Submitted by DWCAP on October 5, 2010 - 12:08pm.

jficquette wrote:
EconProf wrote:
Funny video!
Too bad its true for some firefighters.

Friends next door neighbor is about to retire at 52. Makes well over $100k. Has worked the last 20 years at the airport. The airport firehouse is for one purpose only, and that is to put out fires when planes crash. They do not have responsibility off the airport property.

How many planes have crashed in SD in the last 25 years???

It's likely the guy will draw basically full pay longer after retirement then he worked to "earn" it. So instead of making "just" $125k or so you have to double it. $250k for 20 something years of service?

Id like to see a full pay scale with defered compensation for the public unions. So often people get pissed off (rightly so) about some CEO making an ass load of money (say 100million or something). Cept, that isn't (usually) yearly, that is in stock and only if he lasts the contract, and only if the stock price doesnt tank. How are all those citi/GM/Chrysler/CIT/AIG/.... share options from 2005 doing????? But, the full level of compensation, includiding stock options and such is usually accounted for.

I would like to see this for our public workers. Just as an example, lets say that they start at 25, retire at 50, and die at 75. So, for 25 years of service they will recieve 50 years of pay (26 of it at highest pay+inflation) plus medical dental vision, +whatever else they get (100% covered contributions (I gotta pay to get a match), DROP, tax benifits, loopholes around IRS law.....), with a guarentee of it being paid. What is that worth, and what is it compared to the private sector counterparts?

It just doenst seem right to say "these guys only make $XXXX", without accounting for their benifits which no one else gets. It is frankly like looking at C level executives pay, without stock.

Submitted by EconProf on October 5, 2010 - 6:56pm.

Folks, we gotta stop relying on special interest propaganda for our voting decisions and political stands. Because we see a newspaper photo of a fire or police person doing something heroic does not mean they automatically have a dangerous profession and should be paid oodles of money and retire at age 55 at 90% of last paycheck.
To see who is in far more dangerous occupations, and is NOT paid accordingly, google Most Dangerous Occupations. There you'll see the real heroes: fishermen, tree trimers, taxi drivers, ironworkers, roofers. Their pay is not comensurate, and their bodies are used up and more deserving of a pension at 55, unlike the relatively sedentary police and fire personnel.
Piggs are supposed to be a skeptical bunch that digs for data. C'mon, we can do better!

Submitted by CA renter on October 5, 2010 - 10:33pm.

EconProf wrote:
Folks, we gotta stop relying on special interest propaganda for our voting decisions and political stands. Because we see a newspaper photo of a fire or police person doing something heroic does not mean they automatically have a dangerous profession and should be paid oodles of money and retire at age 55 at 90% of last paycheck.
To see who is in far more dangerous occupations, and is NOT paid accordingly, google Most Dangerous Occupations. There you'll see the real heroes: fishermen, tree trimers, taxi drivers, ironworkers, roofers. Their pay is not comensurate, and their bodies are used up and more deserving of a pension at 55, unlike the relatively sedentary police and fire personnel.
Piggs are supposed to be a skeptical bunch that digs for data. C'mon, we can do better!

Do those workers have the same liability as firefighters and cops? Does their work mean the difference between life and death for their customers?

After all, if we want to look at overcompensation, I'm sure we can come up with a whole host of occupations with far more egregious examples of "undeserved" compensation than what firefighters and cops get.

Submitted by CA renter on October 5, 2010 - 11:02pm.

jficquette wrote:
Aecetia wrote:
You get what you pay for. If you want to pay bargain basement wages, you will get marginally qualified employees. The less qualified, the more problems, and the more law suits for the municipalities who are for the most part self-insured.

If we really wanted our money's worth we would fire all them all and let private entities handle it.

Privatization of critical operations:

There has been much debate ast to whether the use of private security
contractors by the U.S. government is cost-effective. According to the CBO, the
costs associated with using private security contractors in Iraq “did not differ greatly
form the costs of having a comparable military unit performing similar functions.

During peacetime, however, the military unit would remain in the force structure and
continue to accrue costs at a peacetime rate, whereas the private security contract
would not have to be renewed.”18 Agencies generally have not conducted
comprehensive cost-benefit analyses comparing the costs of using private security
companies with the costs of using in-house security resources.
Pay Scales for PSC Employees. Pay scales for these contractors
reportedly vary depending on their experience, their nationality, and the U.S.
government’s perceptions of danger involved. When the hiring of such contractors
first became controversial, the news media reported (in April 2004) a pay range of
$500 to $1,500 per day.19 Since the earlier days of the conflict, experts suggest that
the pay scale has decreased and is on average lower globally as the supply of those
desiring such work has risen.20 The highest amounts are paid to highly trained and
experienced former military personnel from the United States and British
Commonwealth
, with lower amounts paid to personnel from developing countries
such as Chile and Nepal, and the lowest amounts going to locally hired Iraqis.

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL3241...
--------------------

Since police and fire protection are ongoing services, there will likely be no net savings if private contractors are used. Note how the training for these "highly trained and experienced former military personnel" was paid for by taxpayers, as these contractors usually hire former military personnel. I've heard that the pay for these "experts" is 3-5 times what their pay was for doing the **exact same job** in the regular services. Not sure where all these "savings" are supposed to come from when private companies expect to make a profit.

Also, who is going to be liable when somebody's accidentally shot or when a person's life is lost because of paramedic/firefighter negligence, or if a house/business burns down because the private fire department didn't get there on time? Are the taxpayers going to be on the hook for this? I would certainly hope not! If private companies want to make the profits, they need to take all the losses as well. What happens when they go out of business? How do you protect against corruption or other problems when these private contractors don't have to answer to the public?

BTW, would you rather a rent-a-cop/private ambulance respond to your 911 call, or a professional cop or firefighter/paramedic?

Submitted by Aecetia on October 6, 2010 - 1:10am.

I think over time many police and fire departments will be merged into public safety agencies, streamlined and many aspects of their work will be outsourced to civilians for some of the reasons listed above by several of you. The remaining will be better trained and more para-military. There is a lot of waste in public safety and most of it is the pay of the many levels of administration similar to school districts and their multi-level bureaucracy. Most of us want boots on the ground and ultimately that is what the tax dollars should be paid for.

Submitted by jficquette on October 6, 2010 - 7:10am.

CA renter][quote=jficquette][quote=Aecetia wrote:
professional cop or firefighter/paramedic?

CA Renter,

It's nonsense that you would not save money by getting rid of the overpaid unionized government employees in public safety.

Public cost per year counting retirement is about $250k-$300k depending on how long they live which in this day and time is pushing 100 years old. Private pay would be about $75k per year.

That report on Iraq was written by an overpaid unionized government worker and is as bias as all government reports are. Even if it wasn't slanted don't you realize that fighting a war in Iraq is different then public safety in America? It's not even Apples and Apples.

Submitted by Coronita on October 6, 2010 - 7:14am.

I don't know why all the negativity about a private security or firefighting squad.

Maybe the answer is a for-profit fire department in which folks pay monthly dues (kinda like insurance)...Of course there should be an option to "opt-out" of paying a portion of taxes to fund the public version...

As far as "you get what you pay for" in terms of police. I wonder with the true costs of having beat police versus funding the pensions. (don't know)...I don't know but, seems to me that I wouldn't mind hiring blackwater to be my private security guard if it was affordable....Shoot first ask questions later...How's that any different from what SDPD does currently? :)

Submitted by jstoesz on October 6, 2010 - 7:39am.

The reason for Blackwater was not because it was to save money. The reason for private security forces was because the government could not adequately and in a timely manner respond to the needs of the contractors. So, instead of wait for the marines to show up and provide security for their operation, they hired a firm who was directly under their control.

We have a great military, but nimble it is not.

Submitted by jstoesz on October 6, 2010 - 7:43am.

As to the privatize debate with regards to the city, I would tell you to talk to any paramedic. Ask him if he would rather work for a private ambulance service (very common) or a firehouse...

I guarantee we are losing money with the public medics.

Submitted by sdrealtor on October 6, 2010 - 7:57am.

CA renter wrote:
EconProf wrote:
Folks, we gotta stop relying on special interest propaganda for our voting decisions and political stands. Because we see a newspaper photo of a fire or police person doing something heroic does not mean they automatically have a dangerous profession and should be paid oodles of money and retire at age 55 at 90% of last paycheck.
To see who is in far more dangerous occupations, and is NOT paid accordingly, google Most Dangerous Occupations. There you'll see the real heroes: fishermen, tree trimers, taxi drivers, ironworkers, roofers. Their pay is not comensurate, and their bodies are used up and more deserving of a pension at 55, unlike the relatively sedentary police and fire personnel.
Piggs are supposed to be a skeptical bunch that digs for data. C'mon, we can do better!

Do those workers have the same liability as firefighters and cops? Does their work mean the difference between life and death for their customers?

After all, if we want to look at overcompensation, I'm sure we can come up with a whole host of occupations with far more egregious examples of "undeserved" compensation than what firefighters and cops get.

Sorry but typical strawman argument. Yes their work is important, yes they are good guys/gals, and yes many other occupations are overpaid. But this is the public sector. These are not people that invested huge sums in higher education. These are not folks that take on entreprenuerial risk. I have met plenty with incomes of $150K per year and IMHO that is too much particularly when you factor in the pensions and other benefits.

Submitted by jficquette on October 6, 2010 - 11:58am.

80 cents on the dollar for pay and benefits??? That's bullshit. It has to stop asap.

"In California, where an estimated 80 cents out of every government dollar goes to employee pay and benefits, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed a two-tier system of pensions that offers new state workers reduced benefits with tighter retirement formulas. He also wants state workers to kick in higher pension contributions to help deal with California's staggering deficit."

http://www.newmediajournal.us/government...

Submitted by CA renter on October 6, 2010 - 4:18pm.

sdrealtor wrote:
CA renter wrote:
EconProf wrote:
Folks, we gotta stop relying on special interest propaganda for our voting decisions and political stands. Because we see a newspaper photo of a fire or police person doing something heroic does not mean they automatically have a dangerous profession and should be paid oodles of money and retire at age 55 at 90% of last paycheck.
To see who is in far more dangerous occupations, and is NOT paid accordingly, google Most Dangerous Occupations. There you'll see the real heroes: fishermen, tree trimers, taxi drivers, ironworkers, roofers. Their pay is not comensurate, and their bodies are used up and more deserving of a pension at 55, unlike the relatively sedentary police and fire personnel.
Piggs are supposed to be a skeptical bunch that digs for data. C'mon, we can do better!

Do those workers have the same liability as firefighters and cops? Does their work mean the difference between life and death for their customers?

After all, if we want to look at overcompensation, I'm sure we can come up with a whole host of occupations with far more egregious examples of "undeserved" compensation than what firefighters and cops get.

Sorry but typical strawman argument. Yes their work is important, yes they are good guys/gals, and yes many other occupations are overpaid. But this is the public sector. These are not people that invested huge sums in higher education. These are not folks that take on entreprenuerial risk. I have met plenty with incomes of $150K per year and IMHO that is too much particularly when you factor in the pensions and other benefits.

"Entrepreneurial risks" take by "highly educated" people are what got us into this mess in the first place. It's not "greedy unions" that have caused the pension crisis; it's all about financial bubbles, and the decisions made (by "highly educated" people) based on those bubbles, and the aftermath of those bubbles that have caused the pension crisis.

While you might value higher education and entrepreneurial risk, many of us value highly competent, well-trained law enforcement and safety personnel who lay the foundation for a civilized society...and create an environment in which those "highly-educated entrepreneurs" can take risks.

There are plenty of people with PhDs who don't provide nearly the benefits to society that safety personnel do. I'm not sure why we should pay them more just because they spent a few more years in college (BTW, many police officers and firefighters have degrees).

You think that cops and firefighters are overpaid, while I think that middle-men (dealers and salespeople, administrators, etc.), athletes, entertainers, executives, "investors," etc. are overpaid -- a LOT more overpaid than any pubic saftey worker. Those safety personnel benefit society in a far greater way than the people in all those other positions.

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