Faculty and staff will receive a 2% raise on July 1, and the college will address wage compression, according to a June 18 email from Provost Jeff Cason and Treasurer David Provost. A second email sent 10 minutes later from Provost and Cason — received only by facilities and dining staff members — contained details of department-specific bonus incentive programs which aim to alleviate the “significant staffing shortage brought on by the low unemployment rate and the pandemic.”
In the first email, administrators announced that “all eligible faculty and staff hired before April 1 will receive a 2 percent increase for the 2021-2022 fiscal year beginning July 1, with the exception of those receiving increases due to promotions.” These raises come after vocal concerns about wages voiced by staff members after a year of increased workloads, reshuffling and scheduling changes.
The first email also announced that after a year and a half of student and staff advocacy, the college would address widespread pay compression among its staff members. Pay compression occurs when the wage for entry-level employees is raised, but the wage for more experienced employees remains the same, ‘compressing’ the pay gap between the two. In the email, administrators promised to “apply adjustments to ensure that length of service is considered consistently when setting individual pay rates.”
In an email to The Campus, Provost clarified that the administration was aware of the resulting pay compression from the January 2020 pay raises, and is now taking steps to address it.
“The rates of pay of all benefits-eligible staff in these ranges were analyzed to ensure a minimum difference in pay for each year of service,” he said. “This step will redistribute employees’ pay above the new minimums, effectively reestablishing a difference in pay between individuals throughout the range, based on length of service, alleviating compression.”
One longtime dining staff member, who spoke to The Campus on the condition of anonymity due to fear of retribution from management, attested to the impact of wage compression on staff.
“[Pay compression] is probably the biggest reason why employees at our level are leaving. It has created a significant amount of disgruntlement,” the dining staff member said. “They should have addressed that immediately when they instituted the fair wage entry level raises. People don't buy into the reasoning that the budget wasn't there during the pandemic to take care of compression.”
The dining staff member also expressed discontentment with the July 1 raise.
“Two percent is not enough, especially for going on two years sacrificing without a raise and being here throughout the pandemic, putting family in jeopardy. Thank goodness they did just about everything they could to make it as safe as possible for us,” they said.
The first email also announced significantly increased shift differentials for shifts in the evenings and nights. Staff who work evenings will now make an extra $1.50 per hour from their base wage, up from an extra $0.60, and staff who work nights will make an extra $3.00 an hour, an increase from $1.50.
In a May statement to The Campus, Assistant Vice President of Human Resources Laura Carotenuto cited what she described as “recent unemployment incentives” as affecting the college’s ability to fill open positions in dining and facilities. The first email announces that the college “will be implementing a number of programs focused on recruitment and retention of staff” in the dining and facilities departments in response to “a significant staffing shortage brought on by the low unemployment rate and the pandemic.”
The second email, sent only to dining and facilities, details the college’s three new programs to fill these open positions.
First, all facilities and dining staff members employed on July 1 will receive a $1,000 retention bonus at the end of the Fall 2021 semester, provided that the employee remains at the college until then.
The email also announced two new programs aimed at incentivizing applications for open staff positions at the college. New hires in dining and facilities will now receive a $750 bonus after 180 days of working at the college. Furthermore, current college employees who refer a new hire that goes on to work at the college for at least 90 days will receive a $500 bonus.
“We are certainly very happy that the senior administration has been giving this its full attention, and we are hopeful this will help us recruit and retain staff,” Dan Detora, executive director of food service operations, said. “Employees I have talked with are very excited and grateful for the $1,000 retention bonus and the fact that their salaries are being reviewed.”
Detora noted that if dining is unable to fill the 12 full-time positions that are currently open, they may not be able to open some of their retail operations such as the Grille or Midd Xpress. Such concerns were echoed by the dining staffer.
“Staffing issues are a big problem at our levels,” they said. “Lose any more and something drastic will have to happen as to how we serve and prepare food.”
The staff member also said that the efficacy of these new incentives is hard to assess at the moment.
“The hiring bonuses and incentives are a starting point, but … it will be hard to judge whether it will be enough,” they said. “The college has fallen behind in its wage and benefit competitiveness. They needed to start catching up earlier.”
Jake Gaughan is an Editor at Large.
He previously served as an Opinion Editor and News Editor.