How state agencies deal with wage increases

LITTLE ROCK – State agencies have experienced the same issues as many companies struggling to hire entry-level employees.

Several agencies have contacted the State Personnel Management Office to report difficulties in attracting candidates for available positions.

The OPM developed a proposal that allows for higher entry salaries for all state agencies and presented it to lawmakers in June.

A broad approach has been proposed, rather than simply increasing salaries in a few specific agencies. OPM was aware of the possibility of a ripple effect that would cause employees to leave one agency to work in another.

“This becomes particularly critical at the county level where everyone tracks the salaries of others,” OPM officials wrote in a letter to the Legislative Council’s staff subcommittee.

“There has been increased media attention regarding wage increases for jobs within the national economy requiring less demanding skills and duties,” OPM officials wrote.

Some private companies offer bonuses and others help new hires pay for their tuition fees. The letter specifically mentioned the salary increases announced by Walmart, Tyson, Chipotle, McDonald’s and Amazon.

The staff subcommittee reviewed the demand for higher wages for lower-end jobs. Not all state agencies took advantage and raised salaries, but some major divisions did.

For example, the state’s Board of Correction has approved changes to its salary grid that will increase the salaries of more than 3,500 prison staff.

According to the letter from the Bureau of Personnel Management, other agencies have found it difficult to hire new staff, including the Department of Social Services and the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

Employees could receive increases of up to $ 5,000 per year, depending on their duties and the place of their job in the state salary grid.

In their request for authorization to increase entry salaries, officials from the Ministry of Finance and Administration referred to the pressure on the Child Support Enforcement Office. The office has approximately 600 employees in 27 offices around Arkansas.

Their work is voluminous and demands extreme precision. They prepare documents for legal matters that are often disputed by one of the parties in a divorce or child support case.

Employees should communicate professionally with parents of children in contentious cases, and with companies that employ these parents, law enforcement officials, the judiciary, and other government agencies.

The work is “often very stressful due to the subject matter and the level of conflict that sometimes exists in the families we serve,” DFA officials wrote.

Historically, DFA received 100 applications when a position became available. Now the agency only receives seven or eight applications for each job offer.

Often times, the agency offers jobs to people and they accept. However, before their first day of work, they will call to say that they have found a better paying job elsewhere.

“DFA is simply not in a position to compete to recruit qualified employees in today’s environment,” agency officials said.

The pandemic has made the problem worse because many people fear working with a constant flow of clients, such as a revenue office where people renew licenses.

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