Marianas Variety

Last updateFri, 22 Sep 2017 12am

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    Thursday, September 21, 2017-5:59:30A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

OPM: Within-grade pay increases for civil service employees to cost $15M-$20M

OFFICE of Personnel Management Isidro K. Seman said it will cost the government $15 million to $20 million to fund the within-grade or WGI pay increases for around 1,500 active civil service employees.

In an interview, Seman said the WGI is a 5 percent pay increase. It will take time to determine the number of employees, active or inactive, who are eligible to receive the pay hike, he added.

Vice Speaker Janet Maratita has asked Seman to provide her a list of active and inactive employees for WGI evaluation.

Maratita said she felt that not all civil service employees were treated equally with the recent payment of the retroactive lump-sum for employees whose wages were frozen at step 12.

While saying he shares Maratita’s concern, Seman said what she is asking is not a simple task and cannot be done in a short period of time.

He said the process involves a manual review of every civil service employee file dating back from 2002 to present.

“A listing cannot be provided at this time of all active and inactive employees who were affected by the freeze of the WGI benefit,” he said in his letter to Maratita. “This is a significant task that will take at least six months to accomplish and cannot be started now because of the pending salary schedule conversion and the close-out of the fiscal year.”

Seman added, “If done, it must be done by OPM staff, both for the knowledge needed and the requirement for confidentiality of employee records.”

He said he “cannot overstate the magnitude of this undertaking. It is not an electronic database review and must done manually. It involves 5 to 10 times as many employees as in the recent step 12 project. I request that the Legislature confirm their intent and funding ability for this project before we start working and before it is publicly announced.”

Seman suggested a prior in-depth review of the financial consequences of a full retroactive payment of all WGI increases from 2002 to 2015, the other related increases, the possible 5 percent frozen bonuses for those who reach step 12, claims for merit increases, reallocation and promotion increases.

“The Office of Personnel Management wishes to be of as much assistance to you as possible but we are limited by other conflicting priorities,” he said.

Seman said he will be happy to meet with the vice speaker to further discuss the matter.

Seman said the last time the CNMI government implemented WGI was in 2002. After that, all salaries were frozen as part of austerity measures amid the CNMI’s economic downturn at the time.

Maratita has introduced House Bill 20-120 which will provide for the payment of the salary increases suspended by the financial austerity measures.