Survey says competition increasing for workers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Members of the Butler County Human Resource Managers Association met this week at the Depot to discuss the results of the recent wage and benefit survey.

The survey, conducted by Alabama Power and compiled by Marietta Williams of the company's Birmingham office, was sent out to 16 area companies. A dozen of these companies responded to the survey, Williams said.

The employment situation in Butler County and the state is a very different one than just a few years ago, Williams said.

&#8220Unemployment is so low…we are more than fully employed state-wide right now. We are going to see a lot more competition for good workers. The best ones are going to be in great demand.”

With top performers looking for the best packages from their potential and current employers, &#8220these results can give you some competitive advantage,” Williams said.

The survey asked for information concerning entry level, average and weighted average hourly rates in a variety of standard industrial jobs, along with benefits offered, including sick leave, vacation, overtime, pension plans, various types of insurance and recognition programs.

Those attending found some of the results surprising, including the fact the average hourly rate for welders was $9.25 per hour with maintenance workers' minimum hourly rate coming in at $6.50.

Ricky McLaney of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development cautioned those in attendance not to read too much into some of the results.

&#8220We can't be sure, in some cases, if this is strictly entry level or someone who has been working for 20 years. ‘Maintenance' could be someone who simply sweeps the floor at the end of the day as opposed to a more supervisory position.”

The survey indicated 50 percent of the companies responding offered flexible benefit plans; 25 percent had gain-sharing or production incentive plans in place and 92 percent offered 401K plans to their employees.

&#8220The biggest variance we saw was in overtime and vacation time. It was all over the map,” Williams said.

Another area &#8220all over the map” was the degree of employee contribution to health care plans.

When McLaney questioned why only 33 percent of respondents offered Personal Sick Leave (PTO), several HR managers said their companies offered PTO under the umbrella of Accident and Sickness (STD).

There was also a great variant in the maximum weekly (STD) benefit offered, from a low of $91 to a high of $1000.

&#8220I hope this data is going to be helpful to you…we can also do an e-mail survey if you are interested on matters such as absenteeism, specific holidays given, turnover and so forth,” Williams told the group.

Dave Echols, senior project manager for the Alabama Development Office, was also on hand at the meeting to &#8220re-introduce” himself to the area.

&#8220I will be working with Ricky concerning community development and existing industries. We are also in the process of updating the state's manufacturing directory,” Echols said.

Both Echols and McLaney agreed the situation in the county called for &#8220community growth, population-wise.”

&#8220I can tell you Kia is probably going to announce opening an auto plant somewhere close by soon – so our suppliers will probably be taking on more work and that means they will need more employees,” McLaney said.

He thanked Judy Gettys and Marietta Williams of Alabama Power for their community support and help in conducting the survey.

&#8220This type of survey can be so helpful to companies who are just coming into our area,” McLaney added.

Echols believes bringing in qualified people for the growing number of jobs is essential.

&#8220We have gone through tough times in this state with the loss of much of the textile industry. We now have the lowest unemployment rates in 27 years. Now we need to look at ways to grow the population here. What can we do to bring people in?”