- Associated Press - Thursday, June 26, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - About 5,300 state workers will receive hourly salary increases from 13 cents to more than 50 cents in their paychecks on Friday to help resolve a six-year-old union contract dispute.

Officials in Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration said Thursday that salaries were adjusted in early June to reflect wage rates that should have been in place starting in 2008.

Employees will get paychecks Friday reflecting the increases. The checks cover the most recent two-week pay period, which started June 7.

Risk Management Director A. J. Forte said a worker getting a 50-cent hourly raise could see about a $600 annual salary increase after required withholdings, including taxes, health care and pension payments.

Of the 5,300 workers, about 21 percent will get increases of less than 13 cents an hour and about 75 percent will receive between 13 cents and 50 cents. Only 4 percent will have raises of more than 50 cents an hour. The pay raises will cost about $2 million a year.

The amount of the pay will vary from worker to worker, depending on an individual’s job and the employee’s experience with government.

There will be separate checks issued later for back pay estimated at nearly $24 million. Those payments will range from more than $8,000 for about five dozen workers to as little as $7, before required withholdings.

The state Supreme Court ruled last year that 10,000 employees are entitled to retroactive pay increases because former Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration didn’t follow union contracts in distributing 2008 salary money.

Only about 5,300 of those employees are still working for the state, and the state’s first step was to adjust their salaries to stop the liability for back pay from continuing to grow. Forte said the unions agreed to the method for calculating new salaries.

The final step is to provide workers with back pay, and Forte said the administration is in the process of verifying final calculations for current and past workers who will receive a check.

There’s no firm date for when checks for back pay will be issued, but Forte expects it to happen early in the budget year that starts in July. The payments will be separate from regular paychecks, and the state has to prepare and test its computer system to handle the special payroll.

State officials have warned lawmakers that some departments may face budget shortfalls and hold jobs vacant to save money because the Legislature didn’t allocate enough for agencies to cover the full costs of the pay settlement.

At issue in the pay dispute were raises in 2008 for workers covered by collective bargaining agreements. Their contracts called for them to receive raises ranging from 3 percent to 5.5 percent, depending on experience.

But the Richardson administration used salary money appropriated by the Legislature to give all classified workers - whether union or not - across-the-board pay hikes of 2.9 percent. Classified workers are those hired through a merit-based civil service system rather than a political appointment.


Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP

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