AFSCME Council 18

10,000 state workers still without back pay

Click for KOAT full investigative report

By Nancy Laflin KOAT Investigative Reporter

Thousands of state workers have said the state still owes them back pay -- as much as $50 million worth.

When the economy tanked in 2008, state salaries of more than 10,000 people were frozen and stayed that way for years. Those workers said they were promised that money and had the contracts to back up that sentiment.

Those workers fought the state in court, and won.

But they still haven’t seen any of the cash.

Read more: KOAT Report [VIDEO] 

“It certainly is ‘show me the money,’” said American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees communications director Miles Conway. “The employees are out of patience. This has been a really long haul. Everybody knows that they're owed money and they've been waiting for it for years."

Those employees range from corrections officers, state health care workers and Children, Youth and Families Department staffers to those who plow roads during storms. But those workers have contracts guaranteeing annual pay raises, and when it didn’t come and legal action was taken the case went all the way to the state supreme court.

The cabinet secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration said workers won’t see retroactive pay for at least a few months.

The secretary, Tom Clifford, said it’s difficult to sort through 10,000 people, all of whom have different incomes and retirement. He said the state has to figure out exactly how much each person should be making if they’d gotten their annual pay raises.

The state said the back pay totals about $30 million. The union estimates workers are owed about $50 million.

Some agencies may have to have hiring freezes, but public safety won’t be one of them. In the end the union said it wants the state to take action and begin writing checks.

A 3 percent pay hike approved by the legislature will kick in July 1 for many of those 10,000 workers, if Gov. Martinez signs off on the budget.

That budget does not include all the money in the back pay.

The state said that when the time comes, most workers will likely get a lump sum check for that retroactive pay.

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