Guest column: Be Fair to Public Employees
Source URL: http://jacksonville.com/opinion/letters-readers/2010-08-09/story/guest-column-be-fair-public-employees
Myths, legends, reinforced messages and the negative images of public employees devised by public relations campaigns are hard to erase once they have been firmly planted in the minds of individuals.
We are painfully aware of this fact as we witness the unfolding local drama and campaign to demonize public employees in the media.
This campaign to demonize public employees is a theme advanced nationally by some politicians and the media as state and local governments grapple with declining tax revenues resulting from a severe and prolonged economic recession.
The success of such campaigns will allow politicians to balance the budgets on the backs of public employees.
One of the most common themes that are embraced by the camp seeking to demonize public employees is the notion that the benefit structure of public employees is overly generous and in need of reform.
Recognizing the emergence of a national campaign to advance this message in the minds of the public, the National Institute on Retirement Security decided to undertake a comprehensive study of public vs. private compensation.
The findings of this study would be very valuable from a public policy perspective in conclusively determining if the assertions of overly generous compensation for public employees were true or merely a myth devised as a tool by those seeking to advance their own policies and programs.
The report on this important subject was published by the Institute in April.
It found that local government workers earn 12 percent less than comparable private sector employees and that the pay gap has considerably widened in recent years.
The institute then considered the impact from the generally better employee benefit programs (such as health insurance and pensions) that are historically granted to public employees and found that the consideration of these factors in analyzing total compensation somewhat narrowed the advantage enjoyed by private-sector employees to 7.4 percent over the total compensation package to local government employees.
The study also found that jobs in the public sector typically require more education and unique special training than private sector positions, and that state and local employees are twice as likely to hold an undergraduate degree (48 percent public vs. 23 percent private).
Accordingly, the recently published study by the National Institute for Retirement Security represents another inconvenient truth for those wishing to pursue their campaign to demonize public employees.
John Keane is executive director-administrator of Jacksonville's police and fire pension fund.
There is nothing for me to say that would make this any truer. Now carry on.
And oh yes, have a nice Day?
Caveat Lectores by Jeff Carnes
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