Port of Port Angeles Could Increase Some Employees’ Salaries

By Arwyn Rice, September 14, 2013, Peninsula Daily News

Some Port of Port Angeles employees are making less than their counterparts in other organizations and businesses, according to a compensation study commissioned by the port, and two of three port commissioners have said they want to raise low-paid employees’ pay immediately.

Commissioners voted unanimously last week to adopt a recommended concept and statement of philosophy on the port’s compensation policy.

Implementation will not start until commissioners approve a resolution, which is expected to be brought to the commission Monday, Sept. 23, when it will meet at 9:30 a.m. at 338 W. First St.

“This is a major change in policy and an important one,” Port Commissioner John Calhoun said at Monday’s regular port commission meeting.

The study, commissioned by the port, compared employee job descriptions and compensation with established job market surveys, plus 17 selected regional ports, public sector or nonprofit agencies and private businesses, said Matt Johnson of Johnson HR Consulting Inc., hired by the port to complete the study and make recommendations for changes.

The philosophy cited by the consultants said compensation plans “are aligned with the middle of the external market, support internal equity and are based on overall performance of the port and of individual employees.”

Said Johnson: “I looked at every port job description.”

The study found that the port’s benefits package is competitive but offers a lower pay range for many jobs, he said.

Pay grades

Johnson’s team created a 19-level pay grade system with a range of pay based on the average, high and low pay of similar organizations in the region.

Under the system, the port’s executive director occupies pay grade 18, with a range of $112,370 to $152,030 per year.

The directors of engineering and finance are placed in pay grade 16 — $89,590 to $121,210 — and the director of business development in pay grade 15 — $79,985 to $108,215 per year.

Executive assistants are designated at pay grade 10, making $47,898 to $64,803, while the full-time security guard lead is at pay grade 8, with a range of $39,610 to $53,590, and full time-security guards at pay grade 6, making $32,725 to $44,275 per year.

About half of port employees’ current pay rates fall below the new pay range, said Holly Hairell, human resources manager for the port.

Some of them are well below the minimum recommendations, while others are already nearly there, Hairell said.

The position of director of environmental affairs, currently occupied by Jeff Robb, the port’s former executive director, is not included in the pay scale.

Pay raises

The commissioners were presented with options to raise all employee pay to within the minimum pay rates proposed in the plan.

The first option would result in a one-time $20,000 cost and a 2 percent increase to the port’s overall payroll.

A second recommendation, to move all employees to the regional average for their job, would cost a one-time $106,000 and a 10.5 percent increase in the port’s payroll.

Commissioners Jim Hallett and John Calhoun indicated that they want to bring all employees up to the minimum level of the pay range, but no action was taken at Monday’s meeting.

“I want to be on record that I support implementing [pay raises to minimum rates] immediately,” Calhoun said.

Interim Executive Director O’Hollaren should determine where each employee fits within the range, according to performance, experience and responsibility, and market pressure, rather than placing all employees into the average range for their jobs, the commissioners agreed.

Large change in payroll

Such a large change in the port’s overall payroll would need to be considered with the upcoming budget discussions, they said.

Hallett said he would like to see a vote at the next meeting, worded to backdate pay raises to Monday’s date.

“I think we can afford to do it, but I want to do it an integrous fashion,” he said.

Commissioner Paul McHugh said he supported adopting the general recommendations and report but could not support any immediate pay raises for employees.

Under the proposed pay plan, employees who currently are earning more than the pay range for their job would have their pay frozen until the adjusted pay range catches up to their pay, Johnson said.

New employees would be placed into the range according to their experience, external market factors and their relation to other pay rates within the department, he said.

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