Coffee heat rising

State of Arizona Employ: Goodbye, so long, adios!

Arizona’s bumbling state legislators, faced with a budget deficit that would challenge far better men and women, approved a 5 percent cut in pay for state employees.

This will more than negate the 6.2 percent increase they generously ladled out a couple of years ago. You have to understand, every raise for state employees is accompanied by what we call a “retroraise.” A retroraise happens when you get a raise but then your employer jacks up the cost of benefits so that your take-home pay actually drops. Often a state of Arizona pay increase is in actuality a retroraise.

For GDU employees, that 6.2 percent increase was quickly erased by GDU’s decision to inflict a $770 per year parking fee and by the switch from bimonthly to biweekly pay, which effectively meant a pay cut in 10 out of every 12 months. For me the change to biweekly meant a $480/month drop in gross pay.

Well, goodbye to all that! Just imagine: if I continued with GDU past the end of this month, the 5 percent pay cut would have worked out to a $3,275 drop in gross annual income.

If I didn’t have enough reasons to be happy they threw me in the layoff brier patch, there’s another one! If they keep that up, before long my salary would be the same as my cobbled-together postretirement income.

Worry: What’s our beloved employer up to now?

None of this bodes well. Our Beloved Employer, the State of Arizona, is up to something, and it ain’t good. They are actually keeping the nature of the 2009-10 health care plans secret. Open enrollment starts on Monday, and HR on all levels—at the state and at the university—is refusing to tell anyone what choices we will have or what providers they will cover.

What this means is that (once again) the pooh-bahs expect people to be dangerously angry. The last time they pulled a serious number on us, when PeopleSoft was jacking us around to the extent that some people weren’t getting their paychecks at all, they had armed guards present at meetings in which they tried to justify the various ways they were screwing us.

Rumor has it that we will be offered only two health plans, one from Aetna and one from Cigna. Everyone here knows how likely it is that you will get in to see your accustomed doctors if you have Cigna as an insurer. From what I’m told by friends who are healthcare professionals, Aetna is even worse. When Cigna was our only choice (a state of affairs that devolved the last time our present governor was in power: coincidentally, her husband is a senior executive with that outfit), one of my doctors would not see me at all, even after I offered to pay him in cash! I had to go out and buy private insurance on the open market in order to have any choice at all in medical care—and around here, where medical care is about as good as the educational system, you do need to have some control, in the form of choice as to which doctors you will and will not see and which hospitals you will and will not end up in.

Since relatively few Arizonans are sensitive to this fact (in a right-to-work-for-nothing state, employees are just happy to get any health insurance), a limited choice of plans is probably not the issue. Some people will be annoyed, but not to the extent that the Mouthpieces will feel a need to have men toting guns present at public meetings.

No. The issue will be that the cost is going to go through the roof. And that will set people off.

The furloughs have done so much damage that a permanent pay cut in the form of a gigantic hike in health insurance premiums really will cause some serious outrage. We have had our salaries back to normal now for one, count it, one week. Over the past six months, I’ve been working at a $500/month cut in pay. My associate editor announced that she’s looking for another job, because the new little number they’re doing on her has cut her take-home pay to $200 a week.

If they raise insurance premiums to $200-plus for one person (which is what all the plans that are not HMOs other than the EPO presently cost), that will leave her working for…yes! nothing. Zero take-home pay. At that point, she’ll be better off to quit. Applebee’s, where she earns more in five hours than GDU was paying her in a week before its current shafting of her, offers a rudimentary form of health insurance that would carry her over until such time as she can find a decent job. My guess is, she’ll walk right out our door.

A-n-n-n-d… If that’s what comes down, I can’t do all her work plus all the work of the research associate they’re not replacing. Even if it’s only for four months, between September and Canning Day, I may be forced to quit, myself. Supposing Her Deanship agrees to let that much of our workload go and still keep our office open, an exorbitant health care premium will bring an end to my plan to save up enough cash to get by in the coming penury. It’s pointless to work yourself to death if the pay doesn’t do you any good. I’d probably be better off to quit, myself.

What a place!

We’re told the university system is getting $154 million in stimulus funding (quite a lot for educational institutions in this state, which tells you something right there: it’s a tiny, tiny drop compared to the amounts forked over to revive the automobile industry and to lay down more asphalt across our state). GDU is supposed to get the largest part of this.

When Her Deanship was canning me and again when she was raving on about how brilliant I am, several times she murmured that “there might be something” come December. Apparently they hope to find a way to salvage some part of our program if they get some money. But I’d have to think once, twice, three times about any such offer.

First, I really resent the prospect of another $300 to $500 cut in pay. Now, I realize that I’ll be paying something like that for Medicare out of a vastly smaller income. But it’s the principal of the thing: at least on Social Security I won’t have to work for my pittance. (I’ll have to work to scrape together two other pittances in order to survive…but we’ll overlook that for the time being. 🙂 ) Second, I’ve come to feel so angry about the way that outfit has treated my staff that I can barely stand to drive out there and walk onto the campus. And third, I’m tired of waking up at 4:00 in the morning and not being able to sleep for worrying about…well, about shit like this!

Helle’s Belles. I’m going back to bed. Too late to drug myself: I have to drive a car in a few hours. But damn it. There’s a limit to these three-hour nights.