GUAM GOVERNOR SEEKS 10 PERCENT PAY CUT

By Steve Limtiaco

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 1) - Gov. Felix Camacho yesterday told lawmakers he supports a 10-percent, across-the-board pay cut for government of Guam workers instead of the shorter workweek, which has been in effect since February.

The shorter workweek has saved money but has created morale problems and made it more difficult to provide government services, Camacho said in a letter yesterday to Vice Speaker Frank Aguon Jr., D-Yona.

"I am requesting the cooperation of (the Legislature) in enacting a measure to authorize a 10 percent pay schedule reduction across-the-board," the governor wrote.

Camacho said he generally supports Aguon's Bill 57, which already has had a public hearing and which would cut pay by 10 percent.

But the governor said he does not support the bill as written because it exempts certain employees from the pay cut, including teachers and nurses.

"I would ask that the 10 percent reduction be uniformly applied to all classes of employees in all three branches of the government," Camacho wrote.

Aguon said he will ask other senators to consider placing the bill on the agenda, but said it might not be possible to discuss it this week, which is shortened by a holiday.

Aguon said he also supports the governor's request for an across-the-board pay cut, with no exemptions. Aguon said the Civil Service Commission examined the issue and determined exemptions are unnecessary for the purpose of recruiting or retaining critical employees.

As an example, Aguon said, teachers do not need to be exempted because there is an adequate supply of new teachers each year from the University of Guam, as well as retired teachers who could be called back into service.

Aguon said any pay cut would be temporary -- possibly for two fiscal years. And lawmakers need more information from the administration about potential savings, he said.

Bill 57 received mixed support during a public hearing in March, and Aguon's budget committee never took the next step of finalizing and signing off on the measure.

According to the governor, a pay cut would yield about the same savings as the shorter workweek, about $30 million a year.

A new furlough for employees started this week in order to continue the 32-hour workweek that started in February but expired June 25.

As of yesterday, more than 300 government of Guam employees filed appeals with the Civil Service Commission, objecting to the new furlough which cut their workweek by at least eight hours.

More than 4,500 non-critical employees have been working fewer hours in order to save money in the General Fund.

CSC Executive Director Vern Perez said the commission hopes to resolve at least some of the appeals during the next two to three weeks. In the meantime, the shorter workweek will apply to employees notified by their agencies.

Perez said most employees are appealing the work-hour cuts on the grounds their salaries are federally funded and should not be affected by the financial problems of the General Fund.

Perez said employees who are paid by the government's General Fund have argued the government has not yet exhausted all cost-cutting options before implementing furloughs.

"Our intent is to try to and have it resolved as fast as we can," Perez said, adding commission investigators already have met with employees from several agencies, including the Department of Public Health and Social Services and the Department of Agriculture.

Perez said the commission also needs to tackle another issue -- determining how those who already have been working 32 hours a week on a voluntary basis will be affected by the new furlough.

Benefits

Perez said the government for years has offered employees the "Thank God It's Thursday" program, which allows them to work 32 hours a week but to accrue 40 hours a week toward leave and other benefits.

Perez said some of those employees have appealed to the commission in an effort to preserve the 40-hour weekly credit toward benefits.

Department of Administration Director Lourdes Perez said several classes of employees have been exempted from the furlough, including uniformed public safety workers and nurses.

She said the administration department also is deciding whether to exempt employees at some federally funded agencies, including the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, the Guam Energy Office, and a division of the Department of Agriculture.

She said an exemption will be granted if those agencies are able to convince the federal government to provide money for their operations in advance instead of requiring the General Fund to front the money.

The Department of Education has not applied the furlough to its employees, she said, although the administration department still is providing smaller allotments to the education department based on a shorter workweek. She said public schools are using other funding sources to make up the difference.

July 1, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com 

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