Senior city employees call on Albany Common Council to approve raises after losing 10% of city workforce
Senior city of Albany employees are appealing to Common Councilors to approve raises after losing 10 percent of the city workforce over the past six months.
Senior leadership signed a letter to Common Council members over the weekend. The "wake-up call" email says more than 120 city employees have resigned over the past six months, and several more have given their notice. Democratic City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar is lead signer on the letter.
"We've lost about 10% of the workforce over the last several months," Shahinfar said. "And it's usually to, employers who are paying more money oftentimes in the public sector. It's a very competitive marketplace out there. And we have a need to actually raise our salaries in the city, which has been discussed with the council and the administration, repeatedly. And I think that employees seeing the council not acting or questioning in a manner that that prevents employees from being paid appropriately. It sends a signal to our employees that that they're not valued and that they leave."
10th ward councilor Owusu Anane says councilors have been strong advocates for Mayor Kathy Sheehan — who did not sign the letter — to settle union contracts, and also negotiate in fair practices.
"I was actually perplexed by this letter, particularly that it was geared toward the council members," said Anane. "Now when you look at the council's record, over the past couple of years, we have been very supportive of department heads. We have been supportive of rank and file staffers. We have advocated for a living wage for all staffers within the city of Albany, we actually advocated for a pay equity study."
The email says while leadership awaits the results of the salary study, the city is "struggling to retain talented workers." It adds there is a sense "pay increases will not be supported even if the salary study shows they are warranted."
The leaders say city employees are resigning to not only make more money but to leave behind public remarks that make them feel as unappreciated or unvalued.
Anane says there's more to consider.
“I hear some concerns that individuals are being promoted, that are not qualified for certain positions," Anane said. "And there's just been a list of nepotism that has taken place. So when we received this letter, many of my colleagues believe that there was gaslighting, essentially, we have been supportive of department heads, we have been supportive of union contracts, and we have been supportive of the city as a whole.”
Anane says the city is not facing any fiscal challenge right now. He says the council fully funded the mayor's $189 million budget, and there is $10 million in a fund balance. He notes councilors wanted to have a say in how $80 million in American Rescue Plan funds are distributed.
"We can't put money in a budget that we haven't budgeted yet. Guidance from the state comptroller's office says we shouldn't do that until we're ready to put it in a budget." Shahinfar continued "The council's vote for a budget comes once a year. The council has been involved. Many council members individually and as a whole have been involved in the discussions on what to do with the ARPA fund. There is no shortage of council members who repeatedly raised their voice on how they think money should be spent."
Anane said "This is not anti-administration. This is pro Common Council. We are the legislative body for the city of Albany. And we want to have a say on how the administration is spending the federal dollars. We have a fiduciary responsibility to be protectors of taxpayer dollars."
Shahinfar is holding out hope for a more cooperative and supportive relationship with the council.
“We have to work together within the framework that we have to achieve the results that we need for our city,” Shahinfar said.
The Council is conducting a hybrid meeting tonight. Below is a copy of the letter including signatories.
UPDATE: Councilor Anane says he misspoke when he said that "there's just been a list of nepotism that has taken place."
"What I meant to say is that we are working on a pay study to determine the best way to increase salaries and distribution raises with an intent to retain talent in the city," Anane said. "I support our city workforce and want to ensure they are willing to stay with us long-term."