A note to the Bristol Town Council and Town Administrator Tony Teixeira: Call them “salary adjustments,” hikes, anything you want. Just don’t expect Bristol residents to call them anything other than what they are: Pay raises. And don’t expect them to be happy about it.
The council’s 3-2 decision Monday to award “salary adjustments” and pay raises to many town employees — some as high as 13 percent — is a slap in the face to every cash-strapped Bristol resident who will be asked to foot the bill (story, page 1).
While many in the private sector are happy just to have a job and have long given up on any kind of security or (heaven forbid) a pension, municipal workers already treated to paid birthdays off, generous longevity bonuses, union protection and myriad paid “holidays” are looking forward to raises and “adjustments” made, in some cases, simply to bring their salaries closer to their counterparts in other towns. Meanwhile, ordinary residents who likely won’t see any more in their pocketbook this year will have to dig deeper to pay their tax bill, if the budget passes as presented.
Apart from sending the wrong message, the notion that the town must increase employees’ compensation so they won’t jump ship for other municipal jobs in Warren, East Providence or elsewhere is absurd. First, where are those jobs, anyway? Second, Bristol pays its workers a decent wage and probably won’t have any trouble filling vacancies created by whoever leaves if they don’t get a raise.
Times are changing. Private sector employers are doing away with regular raises, asking their workers to put in more hours, oftentimes for less, and furlough days are becoming common. Companies are reducing 401K contributions or discontinuing them altogether.
Tough as they are to swallow, companies are making many of these changes simply to survive. And as much as we sympathize with workers who haven’t gotten a raise in three, four or five years, it’s a tough economy. Town officials can talk all they want about equity, fairness and rewarding employees for loyalty and a job well done, but most ordinary folk aren’t buying it.
They can’t afford to pay those raises.