Once upon a time, government workers had lower wages than the private sector. In return for this arrangement, government workers received extra benefits, often in the form of more vacation, an attractive retirement plan and job security. State and municipal safety employees (police, fireman, etc.) were given even more attractive retirement benefits, since the public was told that this was needed to attract qualified individuals in these dangerous jobs.

Everyone was happy with this arrangement because private sector wages were rising, job opportunities were plentiful and government tax revenues were growing to fund these wages and benefits.

Of course this is a fairy tale today. In fact, average government wages began to exceed private sector remuneration in 1980. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011) show government workers have an average annual wage of $51,300 versus $45,200 for private workers. That means that public workers are earning 13.5 percent more than private-sector workers. Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the difference is about 16 percent when benefits were added.

Looking at public safety employees, fatalities are also lower than many other occupations. In 2010, local law enforcement officers experienced a fatality rate of 18.1 per 100,000 and firefighters saw a rate of 9.1/100,000 (2008 data). In contrast, the fatality rate was much higher for people employed in fishing, logging, farming, ranching and even trucking.

It’s time for our elected officials to put public employees at parity with the private sector. It’s a myth that you cannot hire qualified employees at private sector wages and benefits. How many private sector workers are getting the benefits recently posted for a new Half Moon Bay Project Manager? Benefits include a defined pension that allows retirement at 55, a $1,125 month health insurance allowance, 12 days of vacation, 12 days of administrative leave and 14 paid holidays.

Recently the Coastside Fire Protection District board voted 3 to 2 to move toward replacing CalFire with a new department that would have fewer work hours and higher benefits for local firefighters. Most taxpayers don’t mind paying for necessary government services, but they do mind elected officials paying employees more than comparable workers in the private sector.

Les Deman is a Half Moon Bay resident.

(9) comments

shcrawford
shcrawford

It's time to reduce the size of government.

BigPumpkin
BigPumpkin

Shell Oil: http://www.treehugger.com/environmental-policy/4-billion-lobbying-blitz-bought-shell-arctic.html

Shell Oil spent $4billion bribing the government into letting it drill in the arctic.

IF public sector workers made more than private (they certainly do not), I would be okay with that. You know why? Because most public sector employees I know have enough ethics and morality to make better choices than most private sector employees at Shell Oil seem to have been making. The cops, firefighters, teachers and nurses I know would do everything in their power to stop the kind of evil that Shell engages in. You were the "Director, Fundamental Research and Analysis with Shell Energy North America", Mr. Deman, from 1999-2009. What did you do to make Shell a more responsible corporation? What value to you have to your community?

I bring this up - and it is fair game - because this is all part of an "I got mine" mentality on Mr. Demans part. He profited on our natural resources, at the cost of our environment... and now he has the audacity to punch public employees while they're down? Public employees are taking massive wage and benefit hits across the board. They're loosing their jobs, their homes, and their families. And Mr. Deman, rich from his time directing research for big oil, is saying we should pay them even less?

UNBELIEVABLE!

BigPumpkin
BigPumpkin

It should be pointed out that Les Deman is a very serious oil man. Thats right, from his own website...

"Between 1999 and 2009 Les Deman was the Director, Fundamental Research & Analysis with Shell Energy North America (SENA). Prior to Shell he was employed by consulting firms (W.J. Levy Petroleum Economics Consulting), energy companies (El Paso, Duke and TransCanada) and regulatory agencies (Texas Railroad Commission)." http://lesdemanenergy.com/biography.html

So, this gentleman has gotten rich day in and day out as part of an energy system that has systematically taken advantage of our great nation. We have polluted our environment, and become dependent on a resource that, now that those that are have made their money, is essentially gone.

Perhaps when we equalize pay for public and private workers (which, as has been pointed out, could only be accomplished by raising the pay for public employees quite a bit) we could also retroactively tax Mr. Demans income from 1999-2009, while he was over at Shell enabling that corporation to assault the environment and pinch every single penny out of every American they could get their hands on. What should we call that Mr. Deman? A use tax? You're the economic professor!

Al
Al

RETIREE PENSION BENEFITS WERE UNTOUCHED IN THE VALLEJO BANKRUPTCY. THE SAN JOSE PENSION REFORM MEASURE INCLUDES A RETROACTIVE PROVISION TAKING ACCRUED, CONTRACTED RETIREE COLA BENEFITS. IT WILL OBVIOUSLY BE STRUCK DOWN IN THE COURTS. THE CA MUNICIPAL BANKRUPTCIES HAVE TO DO WITH INEPT CITY REAL ESTATE SPECULATION.

PROOF THAT COLORADO’S GOVERNMENT LIES: COLORADO PERA’S ATTEMPT TO TAKE CONTRACTED RETIREE BENEFITS.

You may know that an entity of Colorado state government, Colorado PERA, is attempting to breach its public pension contracts with its retirees. Colorado PERA is attempting a retroactive taking, a “clawback” of accrued, fully-vested pension benefits that were earned by retired PERA members over decades.

In its attempt to breach retiree contracts Colorado PERA has created a contrivance. The contrivance that Colorado PERA is using is that somehow the “base benefit” is a contractual obligation, but the “COLA benefit” is not a contractual obligation, in spite of the fact that both pension benefits are set forth in law in an identical manner. What this boils down to is attempted, unabashed, theft by government.

Whether or not Colorado PERA’s attempt to take fully-vested public pension benefits from PERA retirees is ultimately successful in the courts, one fact has been incontrovertibly established . . . Colorado PERA, as an instrumentality of the State of Colorado, is an organization that will lie to achieve its policy goals.

That is simply unbelievable.

In one document PERA writes "the contract right has never existed." In the other they write that the COLA benefit is a contractual obligation protected under the Colorado and US constitutions.

When PERA writes that they need "actuarial necessity" to take the COLA benefit, they are not denying that it is a contractual obligation, in fact, it is an admission of the contractual nature of the COLA benefit.

For further information regarding Colorado PERA’s attempt to take fully-vested pension benefits from retirees visit saveperacola.com or Friend Save Pera Cola on Facebook.

Andy
Andy

Scott, I think you made that up.

Everyone values police officers and fire fighters. But you're hurting them when you spread this sort of incorrect information.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf, Chart 3, "Occupations with high fatal work injury rates"), Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers are ranked tenth, not fourth. Fire fighters did not make the Top-10 chart, but if you dig through the BLS documents, I think you'll find them close behind Police and Sheriff's Officers.

John Charles Ullom
John Charles Ullom

11,700 injuries per 100,000 officers

Really? 11.7% of all police officers were injured in 2010? Really??

Reality
Reality

Deman is playing the numbers. If you add injuries to the equation, then peace officers are the most likely profession to be victims of a felony assault. In 2010, they suffered 11,700 injuries per 100,000 officers. The US Labor Dept lists law enforcement as the 4th most deadliest job in the US. That's ahead of logging, farming, ranching and trucking.I don't know where he got his info. The average pay for a peace officer is $55,400. All of this data is available from the federal government.

Furthermore, what private sector job should we compare them to?

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden

Well. finally Planning Commissioner Deman has written something I agree with. I am surprised. But maybe after all these years he is starting to learn how the Old-Guard-politician-controlled Coastside is really setting the stage for a fiscal disaster for us all down the road, particularly with this local stand alone fire department fiasco being pushed by Alifano & Co.

Douglas47
Douglas47

Every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics posts this compensation data.

And, every month, on page four of the news release, they say:

"Compensation cost levels in State and local government should not be directly compared with levels in
private industry. "

Because the ratio of minimum wage workers is much higher in private industry, which brings down their average, and the ratio of college educated and skilled and specialized workers is much higher in public employment, which brings UP their average.

When comparing EQUIVALENT occupations in public and private employment, the same BLS data shows state and local workers are paid less (average 5-10% less) than private workers. This is a comparison of TOTAL compensation, which includes pension costs, health insurance, and the value of vacations, sick leave, and holidays.

So, I can agree. Many public sector workers WOULD like to equalize pay

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