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Little Rock employees in the nonuniform workers union have been placed into a "step-and-grade" pay scale, something the state leader of the union called "historic" for the city.

Under a step-and-grade pay scale, employees are assigned a certain grade category that has a starting minimum salary associated with it. On an employee's annual hiring anniversary, he moves up one step on the scale, which equals a 1.8 percent pay increase, until he reaches the maximum assigned for his grade.

The city's uniform employees -- police officers and firefighters -- already operate under a step-and-grade system.

"It's a little more security, something they can look forward to in the future. They can eventually reach the maximum salary for their job position, and that's an important goal," said Jim Nickels, executive director of the Arkansas division of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

The union represents 383 Little Rock employees, including sanitation workers, street crew members and zoo staff members.

The employees under the step-and-grade system also will benefit from any across-the-board raises the city gives its employees each year.

The move leaves just those employees who are not eligible for union membership -- such as staff members in the city manager's office and in the departments of finance, housing and parks -- without a step-and-grade pay scale in place.

City Manager Bruce Moore said that at some point he will have to figure out how to move all employees to a step-and-grade system, but he clarified that it would not be in the near future.

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"Back in the 1980s, the entire organization had a step-and-grade system. That went away. ... Eventually, I am going to have to look at it because of fairness and equity," he said.

The step-and-grade scale approved for the nonuniform union workers has a 40 percent spread between the minimum pay and the maximum pay in each grade. A person tops out at the maximum pay, which is reached at step 20.

Starting salaries for the positions range from $22,336 to $39,449. The average salary is about $30,000.

A person hired in a "grade 307" position with a $30,215 salary would be able to increase his pay to at least $44,138 over the 20 steps in the pay scale, not counting any yearly raises the city implements. That would move him from $14.53 per hour at entry level to $21.22 per hour after two decades on the job.

At a recent city Board of Directors meeting, Angelo Bender, president of the Little Rock branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, thanked Moore for implementing the new pay scale.

"We do want to thank you, Bruce, and your staff for making that happen for us. There's others here to thank you themselves, because it has been a long time, and we appreciate you and your staff and everything you have done for us," Bender said.

Moore said the city and union representatives had talked about starting a step-and-grade system for those workers for years.

"We kept working on it and were able to design a plan that treats them fairly," Moore said. "Conceptually, we always had the same idea, it was just trying to get the numbers to work."

To accommodate current employees who have several years of experience and aren't making the equivalent salary on the step scale, the city has allotted them one step for every three years they've been on the job. If the pay on that step isn't more than their current salary, they are being moved to the first step that would be an increase for them.

All current employees will at least get a $215 raise.

The raise will be retroactive to Dec. 24. The policy started Jan. 21, and all employees should receive back-payment on their Feb. 24 check.

The contract negotiated between the city and union says the city has sole control in assigning employees to a step and grade on the scale.

Metro on 02/16/2017

Print Headline: LR institutes new pay scale of step, grade

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