"I don't get paid enough to deal with this kind of headache."
"I could definitely make more money if I took my talents elsewhere."
"Working for the government doesn't earn me the respect or the money I deserve."
Sound familiar? No one ever complains about getting paid too much. But how does your salary really stack up against that of your peers? PUBLIC WORKS magazine wanted to find out. Based on answers from 2600 readers just like you, we have a snapshot of how much money public works employees really make each year.
Although you still may feel slighted or underpaid, the results of this survey show that you're pretty well compensated. Non-government workers could never dream of getting some of the perks that most of you do. With stories about major airlines' pensions getting scrapped and tales of retirement funds being stolen, it's a relief to work for an agency that offers some excellent incentives for its employees.
For example, most public works officials responding to our survey receive paid holidays off (97%), health insurance benefits (95%), sick leave (93%), paid vacation days (97%), and a pension plan (82%). Other interesting perks include education assistance (62%), life insurance (79%), and accidental death and dismemberment insurance (62%). In addition to a pension plan, 63% of respondents indicated that they have access to a 401(k), 403(b), 457(k), or other savings plan.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 70% of private workers had access to medical care plans in March 2005, and paid holidays and vacation were available to 77% of private employees. Sixty percent had access to retirement benefits.
So, unless everyone who answered our survey is working at an unusually generous public works department, benefits for municipal workers are above and beyond what private employers offer.Compensation Generally Equal
In general, government employees tend to be paid on a par with workers doing comparable jobs in the private sector, which shouldn't be surprising because public pay often is pegged to what private workers earn. Wages are not necessarily that different between public and private industry, despite general opinion.
Public and private wages typically diverge at the bottom and top of the pay scales. For entry-level workers, government employers tend to pay more, while private employers usually shell out more for highly qualified professionals. One reason that workers with higher qualifications can expect higher pay outside of government is that private employers can be more flexible in their response to labor market demands.
Public works employees may not get some of the money perks that private employees receive. For example, only 14% of respondents to the survey indicated that they received a monetary bonus in 2005. Although not all private employers give monetary bonuses, that number is often higher than for those in government positions, especially since bonuses may be deemed inappropriate or against local laws.
Most respondents to the survey felt that their pay was competitive. Fifty-two percent felt that their pay was “about the same” as others in their department, while 57% answered that their pay was comparable to that of other department employees within their agency. In relation to equivalent jobs in other public works agencies, 40% said their pay was lower and 44% said it was about the same. The one exception—comparing their salary to private industry, 53% stated that it was lower than that in private companies.