KU's 1,600 classified workers might be paid based on a merit system.
A merit-based system for paying state civil service employees makes people nervous but could be a step in the right direction, the head of Kansas University's classified employee group said Friday.
"I agree that people who work harder should get paid more. People not working up to the top level shouldn't get the same increase," said Thelma Simons, president of KU's Classified Senate.
"I agree totally with the concept," she said. "It's just the implementation that scares the heck out of me."
Simons represents more than 1,600 civil service workers on KU's Lawrence campus.
The Kansas Legislature is studying the potential of a new state employee pay plan that bases pay raises on employee performance.
Currently, classified workers receive an annual "lock step" pay increase. That's amounted to 2.5 percent the past few years. Some -- those who topped out on the pay scale -- get longevity bonuses.
By contrast, the state's unclassified faculty and staff, including those at KU, are paid based on merit evaluations by superiors.
Mike Auchard, chair of the KU Classified Senate's legislative affairs committee, said Friday that it was too early to decide whether he could endorse a merit system.
"At this point, there isn't enough information to say. The whole thing kind of makes me nervous," he said.
Simons said her biggest fear was that a new system would be imposed without proper training of people who supervise classified employees.
In the past, she said, KU supervisors weren't consistent with employee assessments.
For example, one supervisor gave all employees in a department a perfect score -- 500 points. While a supervisor in a different area awarded no more than 300 points to the best employees.
"If you were to tie that to salary, it gets scary," Simons said.
One of the ideas that is emerging from the Legislature's study is that each civil service job should have a "job rate" set at the percentage of the actual average salaries of people who hold similar positions in other markets.
Under the proposed plan, state workers could receive a raise after a probationary period and annual raises until they reach the job rate.
After that, any raises would be based solely on job performance. Employees whose work exceed standard performance could receive raises, either built into the base pay, or awarded on a one-time basis.
There would be no longevity bonuses. Currently, the maximum bonus is $1,000 a year.
"It really puts a lot more responsibility and accountability on supervisors and managers," Auchard said.
He said development of an objective, fair evaluation system for state civil service employees could take five years.
Simons said any system that closed the gap between KU salaries and wages paid elsewhere for similar work would be a plus.
"We're way out of range for technical jobs," she said.