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When pay raises aren't based on experience

Dear Joyce: After being at my company for six years, a newly hired young man, who just completed his three-month probation, is badgering our manager to be paid the same as those of us who have been here more than five years.

Now that the job market is better, four of us experienced employees have banded together and will quit if he gets the same pay without "paying his dues."

What can we say to the manager to put the young man in his place?

-- C.P.

Dear C.P.: Brainstorm to make a list of reasons why the longer-serving foursome is worth more pay, such as higher productivity because you've learned efficient ways, competency to handle emergencies because you've been up close to see company policy when things go off-track, and reliability proven by time.

You can also say that excluding seniority considerations sends the wrong message to a faithful workforce that stays to do the work, while the newcomer may depart quickly. What develops in a merit-based pay structure is called "wage compression," a situation that upsets long-timers, as you've noted.

Whether your company operates on a seniority-based or merit-based pay structure is not your call. You're already doing the best you can do by jointly discussing your issue with your manager.

Don't let the meeting get heated. Don't threaten to quit. Your manager, unless chuckleheaded, will understand that possibility without your having to say it.

> Gas prices

Dear Joyce: What, if anything, are employers doing to help employees cope with high gas prices? Raises?

-- Y.T.

Dear Y.T.: You wish! An online poll by Workforce Management magazine of human resource subscribers suggests that employers aren't doing much to soften the gas hit.

Only 7 percent expanded telecommunication practices (78 percent have not); just 1 percent of responding companies gave a salary boost (97 percent did not); some 12 percent are picking up some of the gas tab for employees (85 percent are not).

That's disappointing news for Americans who work for a paycheck and perform typical American jobs -- from secretaries to teachers to truck drivers. Most paychecks fell in 2004, according to the Department of Labor's National Compensation Survey of hourly wages. The overall average hourly wages in July 2004 were $18.09.

But don't feel sorry for the highest paid executives who may not notice a rise in gas prices, even if they're not expensing the charges for their company cars. The big chiefs received an average 7.45 percent increase in total cash compensation during the past 12 months. Their base plus bonus is $3,647,021, as reported by the Economic Research Institute and Career Journal.com.

> Katrina job watch

Efforts are expanding to employ jobless Katrina people in their relocation to new cities. For example, at least 60 employers called a San Antonio radio to offer jobs to hurricane survivors in the city.

An online link of Katrina job listings has been posted by About.com job-searching guide Alison Doyle on her site: jobsearch.about.com; on left screen under "Essentials," click on Hurricane Katrina Jobs.

The other side of the story is that backlash is developing from some longtime unemployed locals, says the Wall Street Journal. A 55-year-old construction worker, jobless for seven months, protests that a lot of people who already live in San Antonio need jobs too, asking where all the jobs are coming from.

After setting up an evacuee-hiring hotline, the Texas Workforce Commission quickly received calls from 708 companies with 8,428 job openings.

Contact Joyce Lain Kennedy at jlk@sunfeatures.com (use "Reader Question" for subject line) or mail her at P.O. Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007.1

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