A Step in the Right Direction by Naomi Buck Palagi

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IU Northwest Chancellor Lowe recently commissioned a salary study report, and there have been some very positive results. For example, the pay for Adjunct Instructors, which had been static for many years, has gone up significantly starting this fall. This was a very encouraging sign. Additionally, a 3% increase has been made to the support staff and service maintenance salary schedule at IUN, effective July 1, 2011. While not a huge increase, this is good news for new people hiring in to IUN, and also good news for those who may be at the top of their schedules, as they will be able to receive pay raises as part of their salary, which can also go toward their other benefits. Unfortunately, those are the only two groups of people who benefitted, because although all tiers of the schedule had a 3% numeric increase, this increase was not applied to those who are already working in the middle ranges. So, for example, a person who was 10 cents shy of a “median” salary, and who received the across the board 1.5% raise on July 1, is now actually further from that “median” salary, which went up 3% at the same time.

Currently, there are very few, and cumbersome, ways to actually move up the payscale. Waiting for your years of service to move you up seems increasingly counterproductive, as those who start out with low pay move up exponentially more slowly than those with higher pay, thanks to the standard of low, and percentage-based pay raises, with support staff raises being considerably lower than cost of living increases over the last many years. It seems the only way to move up the payscale is to have a) negotiated a good rate at your time of hire, or b) reclassify your job. Obviously once you are hired you can no longer negotiate your initial rate, and reclassification, a big job in itself, is not always appropriate to the situation. This is why an applied salary schedule increase is such a necessary and useful tool for recognizing (and maintaining) employees who have put in years of quality service to the institution.
Increasing the minimum wage and recognizing that support and maintenance staff are underpaid is a great thing. However, for it to have any effect in actually bringing the majority of workers’ salaries closer to market norms and peer institutions, and for it to have any positive effect on workers’ lives, it needs to be actually applied to all of the workers it claims to cover.

Hopefully, the administration will rectify this inequity as soon as possible.