By Paige Nash
The Webster Parish Public Works Department, like everyone else in the country right now, is short on laborers and they are having a tough time finding and keeping employees. They have recently had several employees quit to move onto better paying jobs in surrounding areas.
This department within the Webster Parish Police Jury oversees the preservation of some city streets, roads, parks and trails in the form of trash pick-up, water treatment and road repairs. They rely heavily on laborers and truck drivers to provide these services.
They are currently down to a total of 18 employees from the usual 28.
“We have had people come in and get applications and we never see them again,” said Teddy Holloway, Public Works Superintendent.
Starting pay for a laborer position right now is about $11.50 an hour in the parish. Many of the jurors agreed this number was way below what it should be for this day and time and there is no wonder some are traveling to nearby parishes to find work at a better starting rate.
WPPJ President Jim Bonsall agreed and suggested forming a small committee to discuss the current wages.
“We are continually losing people to someone else, and we are not able to hire anybody,” he said. “What I would like to do is get 4 to 5 of us together and talk about it. I think it’s something we need to address because it has just gone from bad to worse over the last year or so. We are doing a lot less work now. Year to year, what we are able to do is probably a half or a third of what we were doing 20 years ago with those 28 employees.”
The concern with raising the starting pay for these employees, is that, in turn, they also must give the current employees raises. This is a problem the city is facing, along with neighboring parishes, including Bossier and Caddo.
Parish attorney Patrick Jackson said that may not be an issue. He said the Bossier Police Jury recently authorized a company to come in and do a salary survey directly targeting truckers. They are currently working to find a solution for the exact problem Webster is experiencing finding laborers and truck drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
“Those are targeted positions that you can’t really function without,” said Jackson. “You’ve got a situation with those CDL drivers, that’s where the rubber meets the road for a highway crew and if Teddy cannot put people in vehicles and equipment, then he is stuck. That is why they hired this company to try and help.”
A motion was passed to work with the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office to contract a work release crew temporarily until a salary committee can be formed. Once the committee is formed, they will plan to meet and discuss their options, whether they could afford to offer higher starting salaries to new and present employees and where these funds would come from to do so.
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