To fill spots, parish may hire workers without high school diplomas or GEDs
The St. Charles Parish Public Works Department needs 22 workers to help complete parish projects, but no one is applying for the jobs despite the promise of stability and other benefits packages.
Because of that, the administration has been forced to consider accepting applicants who don’t have either a GED or a high school diploma.
“The Public Works Department needs workers and we do have a plan in place where these workers would be able to continue their education if hired on,” Parish President V. J. St. Pierre said. “We are going to work with those hired to receive a GED.”
There are currently 297 civil service employees and 41 appointed parish workers.The parish administration feels the wages aren’t competitive enough. That’s why workers aren’t sticking around for the long haul.
“We need to do something to make the wages more competitive,” St. Pierre said. “Improving the wages would help to recruit and keep the workers we need.”
St. Pierre said parish workers are needed to help complete important drainage projects.
“They get the training they need and then they move on to some other organization,” he said. “With so many local plants in the area, we’re competing with industry.”
Industrial workers earn an average of $80,000 a year at many of the plants in the parish.
“It’s tough to compete with that,” he said. “But we have to try to stay competitive and look at doing something about the wages.”
Civil service positions are believed to be among the most secure work environments and jobs in government are usually highly sought after.
Last year, the former parish council approved a 10 percent raise and added a 3 percent cost of living increase to raise pay for all civil service employees. Appointed employees didn’t receive this pay increase.
The raise cost $1.2 million and would increase by an additional $110,000 in each of the following years. The former council also approved a measure to allow the additional $1.9 million they received in property tax revenue to cover the cost of the raises for the civil service workers.
A national survey of civil service workers versus appointed employees revealed that salaries in the public sector are not often competitive with those in the private sector. Government agencies in the parish are allowed to select their own pay scales for those workers.
During his election campaign, St. Pierre said that parish workers were underpaid and that industry is hiring away trained employees by paying higher salaries.