Thursday, January 15, 2009

Low pay driving big state employee turnover

High employee turnover, particularly in low-paying, high-need jobs such as nurses aides and correctional officers are causing problems for a number of state agencies, according to Civil Service Director Anne Soileau.

One-third of the workers at two St. Gabriel prisons left during the year, according to a new Civil Service report.

Four state nursing homes for war veterans, including one in Jackson, had a 49 percent-or-greater changeover in personnel, the report stated.

Statewide, the government employee turnover hit 14 percent during the fiscal year ended June 30, the report stated.

The Civil Service Commission recommended increasing minimum salaries in entry-level employee job categories, effective July 1, to help employee retention.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office agreed to the plan, which would raise the pay for about 4,800 employees at a cost of $7.2 million. But Jindal’s Commissioner of Administration Angèle Davis said Tuesday she can no longer guarantee the pay increase because of state money woes.

Turnover at the four War Veterans homes is high, said Homer Rodgers, deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. But he said it is better than the 110 percent rate at private-sector nursing homes.

At Corrections, employee turnover hit 35 percent at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center and 33 percent at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.

Corrections Deputy Secretary Sheryl Ranatza said job opportunities with better pay created higher-than-normal employee turnover problems at the St. Gabriel prisons beginning at the end of the 2006 state budget year.

Ranatza said competitive pay is the biggest stumbling block in keeping security officers.

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