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Richard Rider

Proof that most government workers are overpaid

On the SAN DIEGO U-T website, there is a treasure trove of invaluable articles (MY articles!) first published on the now defunct NORTH COUNTY TIMES.  The U-T bought the NCT for a pittance, and put their database of stories on the U-T website.

I found it by accident recently — surprised that my timeless(?) op-eds could still be accessed. The only drawback is that in the platform switch from NCT to U-T, there are numerous formatting problems.  Here I’ve taken the article and fixed the formatting mess, but the U-T link can be accessed to see the “original.”

In this article, the data is outdated, but the RELATIONSHIP of public and private salaries for comparable jobs likely remains the same.  And remember, this comparison is JUST the salaries — not the benefits — government benefits that are FAR higher than private sector employees receive.

Further proof government workers are overpaid

In my last column (Dec. 5, “High Local Government Salaries Unfair to Taxpayers”), I made the case that, contrary to popular opinion, most public sector workers receive higher salaries than private sector employees doing the same job. I cited a story from San Diego’s Fox 6 TV that anecdotally supported my position. I used that study because it included two North County cities and, well, I am writing for the North County Times!

In the lively online discussion that followed, critics (all doubtless government workers) took issue with my assertion. They felt the Fox story was biased, incomplete, inaccurate and probably fattening.

Very well. Let’s look at another Southern California city – Los Angeles – and a more definitive study [link no longer works] of public sector labor by its city controller. An appointee of the Democrat-dominated city politicians, this bureaucrat doubtless is very sympathetic to government workers. The 2006 study, which involves a number of recommendations for improving the labor negotiation process of Los Angeles, includes some salary comparisons of common jobs done by city employees and private sector workers.

For our purposes, the salient section is Pages 40 through 43.The city study compares the city wages with the private sector for six common occupations.

Actually, the “private sector” job salaries (gleaned from the California Employment Development Department) are overstated, as they include government jobs in the L.A. region as well. Hence, the disparity is even greater than the study indicates.

And let me repeat: These are only the salaries. It does not include the opulent government benefits, nor does it take into consideration the rock-solid government job security.

Here are the 2005 results:

L.A. City – L.A. Region – % Higher

Bookkeeper/ Accounting Clerks – $44,882 – $33,740 – 33.0%

HVAC Mechanics – 61,171 – $42,896 – 42.6%

Security Officers – $39,119 – $22,736 – 72.1%

Executive Secretaries – $57,107 – $42,568 – 34.2%

Clerks  – $33,972 – $24,416 – 39.1%

Construction/maintenance laborers – $38,701 – $30,781 – 25.7%

In this study, the average public employee receives more than 41 percent higher pay than private sector counterparts. Not exactly chump change.

The conclusion of my previous column was that local San Diego-area governments sorely need an objective salary comparison of equivalent public and private sector jobs, so that government compensation moves closer to pay parity. But when I present this idea to our politicians, the pronounced aversion to such a survey speaks volumes.

Local Democrat and Republican politicians – even more than state or federal legislators – are bought and paid for by the local public employee labor unions. Such a salary comparison study would not be condoned by union leaders – the bosses know full well what the results would show.

Instead, union honchos and their lackey politicians like to compare wages only with other government agencies. It’s a giant con game of salary leapfrog, as each agency in turn complains that some other agency is paying more.

But, with the exception of police, that is not a legitimate comparison. The meaningful comparison is the one above – comparing public sector workers’ salaries with their private sector counterparts.

– Richard Rider, chairman of San Diego Tax Fighters, is a freelance columnist for the North County Times.