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February 2, 2024

Maine will look at how its pay for state workers measures up

Following pay increases for Maine state employees of more than 24% in under five years, the Department of Administrative and Financial Services submitted a report Thursday to the Legislature outlining a strategy to promote competitive pay and benefits.  

In 2020, the Mills administration conducted a market study report that compared the compensation of state employees to those of private and public sector jobs.

The administration, with legislative approval, has since then increased pay by at least 24.1% and begun efforts to improve the state’s compensation plans, according to a news release.

Hundreds of evaluations were conducted on more than 5,500 positions, nearly half of Maine's state government workforce. The result was a higher pay tier that provides a 4% increase over the lower tier for most employees who have reached their maximum wage.   

Thursday's report says that, because of increased pay, expanded benefits and other compensation such as stipends and shift differentials, the 2020 study is now out of date.

The department outlined a new approach to compensation for state employees. Recommendations included more-frequently streamlining job classification categories and staying current with the market by participating in classification and compensation forums for both the public and private sectors.  

The department said it will conduct an updated study targeting positions with chronic recruitment and retention issues. The goal is to determine how state wages and benefits compare to private and public sector employers, and to help the state be a competitive employer. The new study should be completed this September.  

Union employer

The state government is Maine’s second largest employer, with more than 9,800 employees who negotiate compensaton through the collective bargaining process with five different unions.

In December, the Maine Service Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, reached a contract agreement to provide workers with a 9% pay increase this year and other benefits. 

The agreement covered executive branch employees in operations, maintenance and support services, administrative services, professional-technical services and supervisory services.

The agreement gave employees a 6% pay increase beginning Jan.1, with an $800 payment scheduled for February of retroactive raises and an additional 3% pay increase starting in July. 

The contracts also included child care reimbursement of up to $2,000 for certain workers, increased mileage reimbursement, student loan/debt program and increased longevity pay after five years of employment. It increased vacation time and longevity pay, starting at five years of service and more. 

Studies cited by the union showed that in 2020 and 2009, state workers were underpaid by 15%, on average, compared to their public and private sector counterparts in Maine and New England. 

As the contracts become effective, the union said it would begin negotiations with the administration on how to implement a new compensation and classification system and address the pay gap.

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