Photo | Lagniappe

After public works employees expressed their concerns about working conditions and pay, Mayor Sandy Stimpson unveiled an incentive program for them in lieu of a 5 percent pay raise.

Despite an amendment passed by the Mobile City Council adding raises for public works employees to the fiscal year 2019 budget, Mayor Sandy Stimpson released details about an incentive plan for those workers instead.

The incentives would take the place of the 5 percent, across-the-board raises pushed by the council — but could be worth more, Stimpson’s office said in a statement.

“This new program will improve services for our citizens and reward our hardworking team members,” Stimpson wrote. “Our goal is to create a healthy work environment where our public works team can grow both professionally and financially while meeting daily goals of production. It’s time to challenge the status quo.”

The package includes a $25 shift incentive which would “reward personnel who report to work.” The shift incentive would not apply to administrative employees and would cut down on overtime pay, according to the statement.

The program also includes a 2.5 percent pay increase for workers with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), which is designed to help motivate employees to attain CDLs and would give the department a deeper pool of available drivers when needed. Assistance in obtaining CDLs will also be offered.

Further, the program provides an incentive for employees who work in open-cab equipment. Those employees will receive separate 2.5 percent pay increase.

Finally, the program also includes a maximum $1,000-per-year safety incentive for heavy-equipment operators and truck riders, according to the statement.

The safety incentive would be paid in $250 installments each quarter, provided there is no injury or damage due to negligence, the statement reads.

Wesley Young, president of a local public works employee advocacy group, said he’s opposed to the program because it won’t benefit all employees.

“The employees work in the merit system,” he said. “The raise is supposed to be based on merit.”

For employees that can’t receive all the incentives, it’s not a good plan, Young said.

“It sounds good if you get all the incentives, but if you don’t get all of them then you’re against the wall,” Young said.

Added funding for 5 percent, across-the-board raises for public works employees was among a number of changes councilors made to the budget Sept. 26. The money for the raises came from a $104,000 cut to the mayor’s Innovation Team. That $104,000 was added to $846,000 already set aside for the incentive program. It’s unclear what will happen with the $104,000 allocation in the mayor’s incentive plan.

Over the past year, Young and various employees have come to council meetings to complain about working conditions and pay. Workers have also voiced concerns about alleged racial mistreatment and hostility. The council recently hired special counsel Patrick Sims to conduct an investigation into those concerns.

Public works employees also advocated for raises similar to those given to public safety employees during last year’s budget cycle.

Last year, police officers and firefighters received 2.5 percent longevity raises. That means pay for public safety personnel would be increased 2.5 percent for every five years of service up to 20 years.

The council instead added 5 percent raises to the budget for public works employees, but the mayor has decided not to implement those, replacing them with the less costly incentive program.

“Why are they treating public service workers differently than public safety?” Young asked.

Council Vice President Levon Manzie said he had hoped Stimpson would follow through on the council’s amendment, but acknowledged he didn’t have to.

“I felt the raises would have a long-lasting impact for employees, particularly as they plan for retirement,” Manzie said. “We fought vigorously for the raises, but we knew it was a decision the administration would ultimately have to make.”