St. Louis County workers ask for pay increases

CLAYTON, Mo. – St. Louis County workers are not receiving the pay increases they feel that they deserve. During St. Louis County Council meeting on Wednesday, residents spoke on their experiences with their positions and asked for the council members to consider pay increases for the 2019 budget.

Resident Jeff Heine, a district manager for St. Louis County Department of Transportation, has been an employee for the county for 34 years and has not seen a pay increase in the last 10 years. He said that it is difficult to keep employees motivated and have crews scheduled.

“It’s not going to get better unless we pay these people what they deserve,” Heine said.

Heine explained to the council that his department is spending money to train employees for the employees to then leave for a competitive paying job.

Resident Kyle Reis is one of Heine’s supervisors in the West County district. He has been working for the county for 12 years. Reis provided the council with statistical information, comparing the pay of a county transportation employee with their CDL certification making $14.46 to Amazon starting their employees at $15.

Reis explained that it took him 8 ½ years to get to a supervisor position. He said that he has been in the position making $19.41 for the last three years. He has not gotten a raise besides the money that came with the job promotion.

“When I first started, you couldn’t even get a two in four years,” Reis said, explaining the position promotions within the St. Louis County Department of Transportation. “We’ve had to lower the standards in order to allow employees to be promoted.”

Reis said that people are leaving and positions are not being filled because people have the ability to make a lot more money somewhere else.

Resident Deidre Perry is an RN at the North Central Community Health Center. Perry has worked with the Health Department for 17 years. She said that when she and her fellow colleagues were recruited, one of the incentives for working for the St. Louis County was merit increases and performance-based pay raises.

“We left competitive, hourly wage jobs, shift differentials, weekend and holiday differentials and overtime potential,” Perry said. “For a few years, at the beginning with the St. Louis County, we received that which was agreed. However, the last time we received such was in 2012.”

Perry said that the lack of pay increases added to the cost of living, salary adjustment or performance-evaluation based raises have caused employees to struggle in making ends meet.

“Raises are needed more so now than ever before because of this 6-year gap since the last one,” Perry said. “In this capitalistic-economic system, the cost of living is structured to inevitably increase as time progresses. The costs do not only increase with our basis of life, meaning food, shelter, utility and transportation, but many of our workers now have extended households.”

Perry said that there is not just a rise on daily living expenses, but also a rise on the patients that she and her colleagues assist in the public healthcare spectrum with mental health problems, limited access to mental health services, opioid abuse and addiction and more.

Councilman Paige addressed the concerns of pay increases telling the forum that the council had its first presentation of the budget on Wednesday and will be discussing the budget over the next month.