By PAUL HAMMEL
LINCOLN — State workers have ratified a new labor contract that contains the largest salary increases in at least 35 years, a contract aimed at filling critical job vacancies.
Gov. Jim Pillen and the Nebraska Association of Public Employees (NAPE) announced the approval of the labor agreement, which would deliver wage hikes of 5% and 2% over the next two years for a majority of employees, and up to 10% and 27% for critical and hard-to-fill positions.
NAPE’s executive director, Justin Hubly, said they represent the largest raises since the labor union was organized in 1987 and should go a long ways toward resolving worker shortages in several state agencies.
High-vacancy positions targeted
Positions such as state accountants, snowplow drivers, social services workers and drivers license examiners were in particularly short supply due to wages lagging behind the private sector. Those jobs received the highest increases.
“We’re hoping this helps us deliver the high quality services that Nebraskans expect,” Hubly said.
Pillen, in a press release, said the wage increases should compete with market rates.
“We have a great team here at the state, and this agreement shows that we appreciate the incredible work they do for the people of Nebraska,” the governor said.
Past hikes for state troopers, corrections officers
In recent months, the state has raised wages for state troopers and state corrections officers by 20% or more to address staffing shortages and compete with salary increases by other agencies. State prisons have reported an easing of staffing shortages after the wage increases.
The state’s low unemployment rate has also been an issue, according to Jason Jackson, director of the Department of Administrative Services, which negotiated the contract.
NAPE represents over 8,000 state teammates in various positions throughout state government.