ATLANTIC CITY — The city’s white collar professionals have filed a grievance with local and state officials after City Council hired three new clerks with starting salaries higher than those of 17 current employees in similar positions.
The Atlantic City White Collar Professional Association is asking that current employees have their salaries raised to match these new hires.
“It is severely unfair to the existing employees who have been working for years with no salary increases to now have new employees brought in at a higher rate,” said Omar Nobles, union president.
On Dec. 3, Gianni Brooks, Sonate Harvey and Deana Farrell were all hired to Clerk 1 positions with salaries starting at $25,535. The hiring came as city officials proposed a plan to raise public employees’ salaries to a minimum of $25,000.
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“These union employees should’ve been elevated immediately,” said Robert O’Brien, attorney for the union.
The union also claims the clerk positions were not properly advertised. Noble said no email was sent out from the Human Resources department to offer current employees the chance to apply if they wanted to transfer positions.
Lisa Ryan, spokeswomen for the state Department of Corrections, said employees were notified of the openings in an email from the city’s human resources department on June 27.
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Council President Marty Small denied these claims and said the positions were properly advertised. Three advertisements for Keyboarding Clerk 1 positions were advertised in The Press of Atlantic City, one in July and two in August.
O’Brien, who said the union still has a dozen unresolved grievances dating to the start of 2018 for promotions and out-of-title pay, hopes officials will meet to resolve the issue.
“We’re hopeful that the city and the state overseer understand that people can’t live on less than $25,000 a year, which members of the bargaining unit are living on, and that they need to respect the precedent to match the new hires,” he said.
The Department of Community Affairs, the state agency that controls the city’s finances, verified that council had enough in its budget to pay for these new positions, Ryan said.
“These positions assist with the work of City Council. As such, City Council was looking to fill these vacancies as promptly as possible, and council asked that salaries be set at a competitive rate to attract qualified prospective hires,” Ryan said.
Linda Garlitos, of Atlantic City, was hired as a Clerk 1 in the Mayor’s Office in 2014 and currently makes $22,400 a year working the front desk at City Hall.
“I’m glad that they’re making money, however, my feeling myself is that I should be making as much as they are,” she said. “We should all be equal.”
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Garlitos said she has taken on extra responsibilities such as serving as the city’s notary and operator.
“As employees leave, they’re not being replaced, so the workload falls on these employees that are left in office,” Nobles said. “Some of them are doing the jobs of two or three people, and they’re making it work.”
Small said the proposal in November to raise public employees’ salaries to a minimum of $25,000 shows his support for city workers.
“I’m the only one who’s coming up with an out-of-the-box plan, creative plan,” Small said.
Although it’s unclear whether the proposal to raise all employees’ salaries to a minimum of $25,000 will pan out in 2019, Ryan said the state is working closely with the city to formulate next year’s budget.
“The city’s and state’s mutual goal is to keep Atlantic City as fiscally healthy as possible and to stabilize property taxes,” Ryan said.